Florida’s Answer to Common Core Test Cheating in Miami-Dade?

By the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General and the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General’s refusal to investigate possible and suspected test cheating at Crestview Elementary School in the Miami-Dade School District, they may have given the citizens and taxpayers of Florida a glimpse into the strategy to handle the onslaught of test cheating due to transpire with the new Florida Standards Assessments (Common Core): Pass the buck, skip any Office of Inspector General, and let the ultimate arbitrator be a department(s) of the offending school district.

A reasonable person may very well assume that as the State and Miami-Dade County Public Schools were caught off guard by the test cheating scandal of Adobegate at Miami Norland Senior High School that they colluded to create this tactical response of passing the buck and delay and deny and that this is their response and the lesson they learned from Adobegate.

Why can’t their response be to acknowledge the problem, deal with the perpetrators in an appropriate manner, and ensure that this problem never arises again?

The complex answer seems to be, given the State’s and M-DCPS response to Adobegate, that cheating is quietly condoned as the solution to the overwhelming burdens and unrealistic expectations posed by Florida’s version of the Common Core and its impact on teacher evaluations, contractual status, and salary.

The FLDOE took no action as of yet against the individuals involved in Adobegate or Miami Norland Senior High School, and M-DCPS in a bizarre twist fired one of the accused cheaters, Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin, and reinstated the other, Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, at Norland last January.

When one reads that document and theDepartment of Administrative Hearings brief, issued by the School Board Attorney on January 8, 2014, justifying Mr. Fleurantin’s termination, one can reasonably conclude that Mrs. Muchnick is equally culpable and a reasonable person would think her employment was up for termination as well.

A reasonable person may well conclude that the disparity in punishment between Mr. Fleurantin and Mrs. Muchnick suggests a cover-up; the illegal and retaliatory actions taken against me are meant to keep Miami-Dade and Florida teachers quiet and to keep the truth from coming out and to prevent exposing other like improprieties throughout M-DCPS and the State as they arise in the future.

Furthermore, the inaction of federal and state officials to investigate encourages such misdeeds and criminal behavior and shortchanges teachers, students, and the general public alike.

On the heels of Adobegate, Miami Norland Senior High School led the state in FCAT invalidations, 13 total, the following school year (2012-2013).

Given Adobegate in 2012 and leading the State of Florida in FCAT invalidations in 2013, a fair-minded person may well conclude that the only thing the students at Norland are learning are how to bilk the Federal and State governments out of test performance incentive funds.

Florida school districts and the FLDOE do not want to see the disastrous results that befell New York State and Kentucky.

After Mr. Guthrie disclosed information to me about suspected test cheating at Crestview Elementary, I forwarded those concerns to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart later that evening.

After further correspondence with an employee of the FLDOE OIG, I got the following response: “Thank you Mr. Colestock.  Our office will close this correspondence as information only.  Should you have any further questions, please contact our office.”

She also directed me to disclose these concerns to M-DCPS, which I did as I submitted and official complaint to the Superintendent.

Apparently, the school district is not interested as I was emailed a memo that the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General declined to take action and deferred investigation and handling to the District’s Office of Professional Standards and the Office of Assessment and Program Evaluation.

Both entities report to Enid Weisman, the Chief Capital Human Officer for M-DCPS, who is responsible for disciplinary practices in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

She led the effort to remove me from Norland; fired Mr. Fleurantin while reinstating Mrs. Muchnick at Norland though they both were charged by M-DCPS with the same offenses word for word

The principal of Crestview Elementary, Mrs. Sabrina Montilla, was only one of a handful of principals that gave a campaign contribution (page 6) to Mrs. Weisman’s mayoral campaign.

A reasonable person may ask if giving Mrs. Weisman a campaign contribution negates impartiality of any District-led investigation and gives her an unfair advantage and indicate that the foxes are investigating the incident at the hen house.

The State defers to the District; the OIG says no dice; and now we expect the principals and District administrators to police themselves.

At a minimum, the Miami-Dade OIG should undertake the investigation of Crestview akin to the thorough investigation it undertook at Norland; however, given the District response and a lack of

impartiality, the FLDOE should conduct an exhaustive investigation and uncover the truth.

As it currently stands, the Florida taxpayer has to subsidize test cheaters ($250,000 for Norland’s cheating; $45,000 for possible Crestview cheating) and unresponsive Offices of Inspector Generals at the state and school district level.

It should be an either or proposition in favor of the latter and not the former.

However, if the FLDOE and school districts turn a blind eye to test cheating and do nothing, state leaders should assist the taxpayer and shutter the offices of FLDOE and school district OIGs and/or shift that funding to teacher salaries and/or school libraries.

Given the horrid track record of Common Core exams across the country and past instances of cheating in Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida needs to have an ethical and a responsible approach to future instances of test cheating as it surely will arise in the near future as it has in Georgia, Texas, California, and recently in Pennsylvania.

Moreover, Florida politicians need to have the courage and morals to act accordingly, like those in the aforementioned states, especially Georgia, and put the perpetrators of test cheating where they belong – in prison.