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L.A. Unified moves forward in process to close Crescendo schools for cheating

April 5, 2011 |  9:07 pm

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to issue a formal notice of violations against each campus among a group of six South Los Angeles charter schools involved in a cheating scandal. But some board members and incoming L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy left open the possibility that Crescendo charter schools could stay open if Crescendo responds appropriately.

The violation notices came in response to cheating that occurred before last year’s state standardized tests, when Crescendo Executive Director John Allen allegedly ordered principals to have teachers prepare students using the actual test questions.

The Crescendo “schools have the next step in their hands,” Deasy said. “Staff will work with you.”

The school board acted after listening for more than 90 minutes to impassioned pleas from parents, teachers, students and the head of Crescendo’s own board to keep the schools open. More than 150 Crescendo supporters demonstrated outside.

“They’re doing a great job at Crescendo teaching these students,” said parent Aaprel McGee, praising the teachers, some of whom came forward to report the cheating. The students shouldn’t lose their school “just because a knucklehead did something wrong.”

Speaking in Spanish, parent Jessica Lopez said that she’d returned to school herself to keep up with how fast her children are learning, and that they’d done worse academically in other schools.

“We teach our scholars how to act with honesty, integrity and trustworthiness,” said teacher Lisa Sims. To close the schools after teachers risked their jobs to report the problem tells children “that it does not pay to do the right thing,” she said. “That speaking out against injustice ... isn’t worth it.”

Board member Yolie Flores sounded persuaded, saying that she would be reluctant to vote for closing down the schools when it came time for a final vote, probably in late April.

“We are a board that says we put children first,” she said.

But board member Nury Martinez countered: “I love the passion that all of you displayed. [But] the fact that no adults were held accountable sends a horrible message to children.”

The Crescendo board fired Allen in March when a forced shutdown became likely. Principals allegedly involved in the cheating are still working at the schools. It isn’t clear how many teachers took part in cheating. Allen has not responded to requests for interviews.

A parent at the demonstration, who declined to give her name, blamed only Allen: “If your boss told you to do something, would you do it? I would. Everybody is scared to lose their jobs.”

She added: “Everybody cheats. They just got caught.”


Founder of Crescendo charter schools fired

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

California Schools Guide