As the adage goes, those who can do. However, some who won’t cheat. The New York Times recently reported a triple-state cheating ring for teacher certification exams. Clarence D. Mumford Sr. pleaded guilty to charges that he masterminded a cheating ring throughout his 20-plus year career in Memphis education.
The ring reportedly operated for at least 15 years. Mumford Sr. was indicted on 63 counts. He was connected with doctored driver’s licenses and collecting more than $100,000 from teachers and aspirants in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
This bust reminds the public of the Atlanta cheating scandal in earlier spring, where 35 educators were indicted, including former school superintendent Beverly Hall. The Atlanta scandal included allegations of school leaders correcting students’ test answers. The aftermath infuriated some constituents who believed that the penalties for academic dishonesty were too severe.
USA Today reported a pastor’s take. “The community is saying this is wrong. We’re treating these educators like they’re criminals, like they’re drug dealers, like they’re gangsters,” Timothy McDonald III, of First Iconium Baptist Church said. “Yes, fire the ones who cheated, but this is overreaching.”
The Atlanta indictments followed an almost 2-year investigation into test scores. Dishonesty allegations bubbled up in 2008 as the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported “statistically improbable increases” in scores on a state-mandated competency test.
While reasonable people cannot justify swapping academic integrity for academic gains, some wonder if the national model is flawed. Pedagogical practices lean more toward standardized test mastery and less toward individualized learning. As result, academic pressures mount. Regardless, others take issue with school leaders, many who play hybrid roles as community leaders, de facto parents, confidants and examples, refusing to practice what they preach –or rightly learning what they teach.
A mother, whose child attends an elementary school where a teacher who pleaded guilty, told the Times, “A teacher’s job is very hard. I know it is,” Threeshea Robinson said. “But I would not want a doctor who did not pass all his tests operating on me.”