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Cheating scandal at charter schools leads California association to withdraw support

March 3, 2011 | 10:13 am

The association representing California’s charter schools has withdrawn support for a group of Los Angeles-area schools that cheated on last year’s state standardized tests.

“Cheating is completely unacceptable and inexcusable in any school," wrote Jed Wallace, the chief executive of the California Charter Schools Assn., in a letter to the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to begin the process of revoking the charter of six schools operated by the Crescendo organization. The campuses likely would be forced to close by the end of the school year.

"We are in complete support of the LAUSD board’s decision,” Wallace wrote.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the association’s representative had supported a milder response advanced Monday by incoming L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. That plan would have given a one-year charter extension for the two Crescendo schools nearing the end of their current charter authorization. Four other Crescendo schools, which also participated in the cheating, would not have been immediately affected.

In a story Monday, The Times disclosed that Crescendo founder and executive director John Allen had, according to school district documents and officials, ordered principals and teachers to cheat by breaking the seal on the state tests and using the actual questions to prepare students for the test.

Charter schools are independently operated but are overseen by the education agency that authorizes them. L.A. Unified has more charter schools than any school system in the country.

In an interview Monday, Wallace said he would not speculate on what should happen to a charter or its employees who were involved in cheating.

Crescendo joined the association as the cheating allegations were emerging. In the interview, Wallace said Crescendo was allowed to become an association member only because the association concluded that Crescendo had sufficiently addressed the scandal in the view of L.A. Unified.

By Tuesday’s board meeting, Deasy had adopted a harder line, calling for an investigation before a charter renewal would be considered. The school board went further, voting for a shutdown, citing both the nature of the cheating and Crescendo’s response to it, noting that no one at Crescendo had been fired.

Crescendo operates schools in South Los Angeles, Gardena and Hawthorne. A group of parents at the schools is trying to rally support to keep them open.

"We as adults do make mistakes and will possibly continue to make them, but why should our children suffer from it," said parent Carmell Demerson. Crescendo officials have declined to be interviewed.


L.A. school board to close six charter schools caught cheating

L.A. Unified set to renew charter contract despite evidence of cheating

-- Howard Blume