School system shares blame for cheating

May 28, 2010

As a recently retired 37-year veteran of the Baltimore City Public Schools, I read with considerable interest your recent front page report on the cheating at George Washington Elementary School. While I in no way condone cheating in any form, it is possible responsibility for this can be attributed to both the school and the school system.

The pressure to document acceptable numbers on tests has become almost an obsession. It's not far afield to compare this to college basketball and football coaches on the bubble when their teams fail to produce praiseworthy win/loss records. Sadly, if coaches cheat and are caught — as was the case at George Washington — heads roll. And certainly at this Baltimore City elementary school, heads are on the chopping block.

Coaches know it. Principals know it. Corporate heads know it too. Especially when stockholders demand sufficient returns and numbers are "crunched" to meet these demands.

Great truth: If you cheat and get away with it, no one cares. If you cheat and get caught, as the George Washington people did, somebody pays. Enron, may it rest in peace, knew it. Rite Aid pharmacies knew it. Are their head people still in prison? Presidents, mayors, governors, congressmen and senators all know it. Both those in prison and those that didn't get caught. Certainly Baltimore's previous mayor knows it all too well.

A striking public service announcement showed a schoolboy basketball player informing the referee he had made a bad call and the ball that went out of bounds really belonged to the other team. It just doesn't happen. Who said, "Winning isn't the most important thing. It's the only thing?"

My contention: Virtually everyone under the pressure of a severe career loss, in the public eye, is one lie away from getting caught and saying goodbye to it all.

Samuel A. Zervitz, Baltimore

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