Community Response To Foley's Firing, And Academic Dishonesty

July 16, 2012

The recent revelations about QCSD's attempted cover-up of technology teacher Nick Foley's firing, and the renewed accusations of grade manipulation in the district, have generated a blizzard of response. It seems that our academic dishonesty has been well known to current, and former, teachers and parents.

A former volunteer aide wrote: "Grade manipulation was going on way before (Superintendent Lisa) Andrejko. When I volunteered at (a QCSD elementary school) in the late 90's, I was there pretty much every day. I worked with students that couldn't read and/or couldn't do math. One was my daughter's friend, who, in fourth grade, couldn't read. I was teaching her phonics, which was already a no-no back then. Instead, they showed pictures, and the kids were supposed to figure what the words said from that.

They passed her to fifth grade anyway. She moved to Harleysville that summer. Harleysville held her back. Another girl in fifth grade couldn't read - every word was so hard for her. But they passed her to middle school anyway. And I remember a fifth grade boy who couldn't figure out reading or math. He was way behind in both, and had no business being promoted because he was probably on a third grade level. But, again, he was promoted to middle school.

I remember saying to my daughter that if they passed him, they were idiots. But even at that time, I had figured out that Quakertown passed everyone, even though it hurt the student in the long run. QCSD never believed in holding students back - it might hurt their feelings."

A former teacher pointed out that the blame for our schools' problems goes beyond the administration, teachers, and students: "I have a very jaundiced view as to the position of the general public, particularly the parents, in all of this. Too many of the parents seem to be mesmerized by sports, activities, etc. - anything but academics.

There's also the attitude that if my kid's grades are good, don't bother me. They compare their own children with the kids' peers, and see no evil. Only when these same offspring fail miserably in higher education, or possibly the job world, do they even consider that their preparation has been faulty. These children have been feeling good about themselves for 12 years, and suddenly they're failures in real life. Their attitude is that no one is nice to them; the world owes them a living. We can forget about these newly 'graduated' wonders contributing anything to society.

Contrast this to the experience of students from other cultures, particularly Asians. Asians have, in large part, abandoned the public schools, sacrificing greatly to provide a real education for their children."

A parent of a recent QCSD graduate mirrored my feelings that Foley's demand for an independent arbitrator to hear the appeal of his firing could have disastrous consequences for Andrejko: "I don't condone what Foley did - but in arbitration, his firing is beatable. He is just the scapegoat for everything the administration is doing wrong, and which hurts our kids.

Foley should subpoena elementary principals and teachers, and ask if they teach to the PSSA test (which we know they do). If they lie, subpoena a copy of the 'study guide' sent home to third graders. Also, ask those elementary teachers under oath if they told students to complete their unfinished PSSA exams (which is against official procedures). If they say no, there are many students who will admit otherwise.

Then, Foley should ask for copies of previous Project Lead The Way exams. I'll bet that they have changed little, or none, in the last three years. If they haven't, QCSD is accusing him of providing answers when he simply used past questions as study guides (done by a lot of teachers).

I would ask Advanced Placement teachers to describe how they teach/prepare for AP classes. Same thing, they use old tests. I don't like it, but that's what they do. He could also ask the administration if they, or principals, review curriculum/lesson plans. I am sure the answer is no.

That being said, the situation is untenable on many levels. There needs to be a statement of no-confidence in the path the school district is taking under the current administration. That they are non-responsive is completely unacceptable. The fig leaf of personnel privacy (in not allowing the directors to learn why Andrejko was telling them to fire Foley) is badly misapplied. The board had every right to know everything about why they were asked to take away a man's livelihood. Andrejko's say-so shouldn't be enough. That is just giving her carte blanche to cover up anything she wants to. It troubles me that nine school directors would even think about acting without being completely informed.

The general policy of encouraging cheating, and protecting the guilty, harms the reputation of the school and its students. The administration says one thing - they don't cheat, and they don't teach to the test - but their history, actions, and response indicate otherwise. These are the same folks who have long claimed that nothing is done in secret.

I know there are many people out there who feel as I do. When I talk about this with my neighbors, colleagues, and friends, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. There needs to be a sea change."

Another former teacher echoed that parent, and had a message for all QCSD families: "I think we need to go through one more election to really make the change we need. I hear from my friends - current teachers - that some print out The Silent Majority columns, and leave them around the school in the faculty rooms. They want the community to know that many, many teachers really do care about providing proper education, and are very unhappy about our academic dishonesty. They are just waiting for the school board to finally take action."