Cheating? What cheating?
That's the message that the Camden school board is sending to the city's 17,000 students and their parents. School board members would rather forget about the standardized tests fraud than hold anyone accountable.
The board has reinstated Roger Robinson, even though an internal probe implicated him in the test rigging. Robinson is getting "demoted" to a middle-school guidance counselor, apparently at his previous salary of $108,000. He had been suspended in January
Board President Sara T. Davis said there wasn't "conclusive" evidence to hold Robinson responsible. That's a whitewash of the report prepared by former county Prosecutor Edward F. Borden Jr., who concluded that Robinson was responsible for "illicit tampering" that boosted state standardized test scores at the Dr. Charles E. Brimm Medical Arts High. Robinson has denied wrongdoing.
At best, the board wasted $90,000 to hire Borden. Far worse, the leaders of the school district are intent on making this scandal go away unresolved.
A year ago, Gov. Corzine vowed that he wouldn't tolerate the cheating uncovered by a 10-month Inquirer investigation in 2006. That series of reports found that cheating was ingrained in at least one-third of the city's 29 schools.
After the cheating was exposed, the state monitored testing in Camden's schools more closely. As a result, test scores plummeted at nearly all schools.
"The most important thing is that those that took part in the process be held accountable," Corzine said.
But a year later, that accountability is still missing.
No one has been fired (disciplinary action is pending against two district employees). The only person to lose his job was Joseph Carruth - who blew the whistle on the scandal. Carruth claimed he was pressured to cheat but was discredited by Borden's report.
Former Superintendent Annette D. Knox, who received bonuses tied to improved test scores, was forced out in 2006 with a parting gift of $200,000. Some punishment.
The state education department found that test scores in Camden had been manipulated by "adult interference." Now it appears the state and the school district are content to let this educational fraud slide. It's a crime without any named perpetrators. Who condoned the cheating? How did it grow so extensive? School board members no longer care to get answers or punish wrongdoers, if they ever did.
The adults responsible for educating Camden's children are reacting to the systemic problems with a tired shrug. That response makes it even more difficult for parents and students to have any confidence in those charged with their education.
So the lesson here is this, kids: It's OK to cheat, and even OK to get caught. Just don't blow the whistle.