Thursday, December 8, 2016
A panel of state judges just taught New York City students a clear-cut lesson: It’s OK to cheat on tests.
Yep: That’s message from the Appellate Division decision that upheld a lower court’s ruling reinstating Bronx elementary school teacher Ericka Bolt to her $78,000-a-year job.
Mind you, the five-judge panel agreed with an arbitrator’s finding that Bolt helped her students cheat on a state English exam by telling kids to change incorrect answers.
But four of the five judges ruled that, given her previous “unblemished record,” firing her for a “one-time mistake” actually “shocks our sense of fairness.”
What shocks us is their sense of what constitutes acceptable teacher behavior.
We don’t know if it was a one-time event. The only reason this came to light was because several of her students asked for similar help from other teachers on exams the next year — plainly thinking it appropriate. Those students scored much lower that following year than they had with Bolt’s help.
The four judges actually considered it a point in Bolt’s favor that she “did not provide the students with the correct answer” — as if that was a lesser form of cheating.
Talk about defining deviancy down — the syndrome, coined by the late Sen. Pat Moynihan, in which society keeps lowering the standard of appropriate behavior.
We’re more persuaded by the lone dissenter, Justice John Sweeny, who agreed with the arbitrator that Bolt “had the responsibility to set an example” to 10-year-old students” and that her actions “irrevocably compromised her ability to serve as a role model.”
All this comes as a new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute says that getting rid of ineffective public-school teachers in New York City is harder than “in almost any other district in the country.” And that’s not even considering the added barrier imposed by the courts.
Teachers need to teach, not cheat. Putting Ericka Bolt back in the classroom won’t help any of her students.