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Company to collect brain wave data on 1.2 mil students in the classroom

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Company to collect brain wave data on 1

[This is part 4 of a series on education, student privacy, and technology in the classroom. You can read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE. Each article builds on the previous ones.]

“Turning massive amounts of personal data about public school students to a private corporation without any public input is profoundly disturbing and irresponsible.”

~Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director

Data-mining is the new gold rush, with student data (which is sometimes referred to as human capital) forming the new mountain for conquest. Classrooms are the new West and grant money is the new pickaxe. Big Money, Big Tech, Big Philanthropies and start-up companies, along with the Big State comprise the ranks of the 21st Century’s “forty-niners.” Regardless of who is doing the mining and the collecting of our human capital – the Big State and its Big Beaurocracy, educational venture capitalists/companies like Knewton and DreamBox,  Big Tech companies like Amazon and Google, or “venture philanthropists” like Zuckerberg and Gates with their infamous “schoolhouse commercialization” – this get-rich-quick scheme will inevitably have big consequences for student privacy and for the civilian-to-government, government-to-civilian relationship going forward.

A CASE STUDY: BRAINCO, INC.

BrainCo

The technology: One company among modernity’s forty-niners is BrainCo, Inc. which has created a headband to measure and collect students’ brain waves, or EEG’s. Data collected will then be sent to a teacher dashboard as part of the company’s FocusEDU program. The company purports the technology measures students’ level of attention, and claims that the EEG data collected will help teachers and administrators determine when each student is paying attention during a lesson and/or activity.

China, where the communist regime is always in search of new ways to spy on and, thus, manipulate its citizenry into submission, has ordered 20,000 of these devices. “Our goal with the first 20,000 devices, each of which will be used by multiple students in schools, is to capture data from 1.2 million people,” stated the CEO of BrainCo. “This will enable us to use artificial intelligence on what will be the world’s largest database to improve our algorithms for things like attention and emotion detection.” A school in Long Island is set to roll-out a trial of the headbands this year.

Flaw #1 – science disagrees: As Sandra Loo, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, has stated, there is no evidence supporting the idea of using EEG’s to determine attention level, as EEG data is not sophisticated enough to account for numerous variables, such as neurodiversity, which can result in “misleading assumptions about how an individual student is or what he or she needs” (Edsurge, 2017). Loo, who also directs Pediatric Neuropsychology at UCLA, explained, “Even in resting EEG, there are different subgroups [of brain activity]. It’s not just ADHD; there is variability in normal kids.”

Theodore Zanto, who directs OCSF’s neuroscience program, shares Loo’s concerns regarding the inaccuracy of BrainCo’s claim of using headbands to measure attention. “I haven’t seen any data indicating you can dissociate [in an EEG scan] if someone is paying attention to the teacher or their phone or just their own internal thoughts and daydreaming.” The students wearing the headbands “might be incredibly focused, but focused on the wrong thing, and you could get the same EEG measures.” It is also not uncommon, according to Johns Hopkins, for normal children between the ages of 4 to 14 to experience “absence seizures.” This could result in a faulty indication of inattention by BrainCo’s headband-generated data.

BrainCo, Inc. has been designated by the FDA as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) organization, giving the company permission, according to FDA rules, “to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects.” However, an FDA legal “assurance,” which requires the research subject’s consent, is only required for products currently regulated by the FDA and funded, in full or in part, by the Department of Health and Human Services. To date, no medical trial on BrainCo’s headbands has been conducted.

Flaw #2 – student privacy: BrainCo’s headbands are merely a single example of how the line between educational, bio-medical, and psycho-medical information is being increasingly blurred. How much of your medical information should be shared with your teacher or your school? When I taught, I certainly would not have considered accessing or viewing a student’s brain waves to be an appropriate or ethical activity. Nor would I have been comfortable strapping EEG recording headbands onto my Kindergarteners. Whereas a student’s food allergies are important to know, accessing his/her brain waves appears, for me, to cross the line of student privacy. While unethical, teachers who object to such unethical breaches of student privacy may possibly find themselves punished, according to a recent article at Missouri Education Watchdog.

There are presently no privacy policies listed on the company’s website. In addition, BrainCo, Inc. will not rule out the use of student EEG data for other purposes and, according to research scientist Max Newlon, the company intends to “use [headset] data for a number of different things.” “The hope is when we have this really big database, we will do some analysis that others haven’t been able to do yet,” Newlon added. Emily Tabatabai, a privacy lawyer, explained that, under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), “a provider needs to have procedures in place to address the collection of data, the deletion of data, how it will be used and shared.” Newlon has indicated that the company’s privacy policies are still being “ironed out.” Unfortunately, the matter of student privacy was muddied significantly after the Obama Department of Education gutted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 2011. In addition, there is still no word on whether, or not, BrainCo, Inc. will need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws due to the medical nature of the data collected.

Flaw # 3 – time and training: Teachers and administrators are not medical practitioners and, thus, are unable to read or interpret EEG’s. In addition, there is frankly little, if any, time available to be devoted to analyzing brain waves for the said purpose of ascertaining each student’s attention level, which would then need to be retroactively synchronized with the teacher’s lesson to determine precise point at which the student’s attention decreased. As Max Newlon, a research scientist at BrainCo. has already acknowledged, “Teachers have an innate ability to know when their students are engaged…” This begs the question of what, then, would be the benefit of using BrainCo’s headbands?

The true agenda: As reported by Forbes, BrainCo, Inc.’s CEO stated that the company’s goal is to develop a “brain typing” tool, translating thoughts into text. The headbands, then, serve as EEG data collectors, sending large amounts of data to what the CEO hopes will be “the world’s largest brain wave database,” explaining that, “this will enable us [BrainCo, Inc.] to use artificial intelligence on what will be the world’s largest database to improve our algorithms for things like attention and emotion detection.” Thus, just as with far too many of the money-making “education” schemes, all supposedly designed to “assist teachers” and “improve learning,” the main agenda is quite different than what is marketed to the schools.

“I believe that data is the new oil.”

~Ajay Banga, president and CEO of MasterCard

(speaking Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh)

OTHER EXAMPLES OF BIG DATA TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS:

Project EMAR, your “friendly” classroom robot: A $1 million grant was recently awarded to the University of Washington to develop and then deploy a robot named “EMAR” (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot) which will collect data on high schoolers’ “mental health data in a public high school setting” including students’ “real-time stress and mood data,” according to the official document. In addition, EMAR is intended to contribute to the future development of omnipresent “social robots” serving as data-collectors. “The results of this project will be disseminated widely,” [emphasis mine].

“Smart” tutoring programs employing biomedical sensors: Computer science and psychology professor Sidney D’Mello enthusiastically stated, “Now, you can get a reasonable proxy of a student’s heart rate from a webcam.” Welcome to the world of biometrics, which Edutopia defines as the use of technology to “recognize humans based on specific physical or behavioral traits.” Students’ biomedical data collected via biometric technology may include “physical traits such as facial expression, heart rate, skin moisture and even odor” which “can be used to create detailed reports of student understanding and performance.” Biomedical information also includes, for example, “behavioral signs such as typing rhythm, gait and voice.”

Enter “Intelligent Tutoring Systems,” where private thoughts, emotions, and even how much a student perspires is prime gold to be mined. An article in Education Week illustrates the Big Data dreamers’ determination to violate long-established educational ethics and student privacy. The article shines a light on the ways in which technology is facilitating “new efforts to dramatically expand the types of data collected in the classroom and to focus more attention on responding to individual students’ ‘mindsets,’ non-cognitive skills, and emotional states.” Operating under the guise of “personalized learning experiences,” new forms of technology in the classroom are actively involved in the collection of data on students’ “individual emotions, cognitive processes, ‘mindsets,’ and character and personality traits.”

A 2013, Education Department report, entitled Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century describes “four parallel streams of affective sensors” already in use in government-funded tutoring programs. The devices include a facial recognition camera which is synced to software that “extracts geometric properties on faces,” and is used to “detect emotion and capture facial expressions.” There is also a “posture analysis seat” and “pressure mouse.” Finally, the report describes a “wireless skin conductance sensor” strapped to students’ wrists. According to the report, the sensors collect “physiological response data from biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration” (Blumenfeld & Newman, p. 216, 2014). Just imagine the possibilities, had this technology been available to the Cheka!

A few more examples of biometric technology:

  • “It simply takes a picture of the iris, which is unique to every individual,” wrote the Polk County, Florida 2013 school board’s “senior director of support services” in a letter to parents. “With this program, we will be able to identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon. This is an effort to further enhance the safety of our students. The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card.” (The New American)
  • Since 2007, under the guise of improving school lunchtime procedures, more and more states are implementing in-school fingerprinting.
  • Radio-frequency identification devices (RFID’s) for “student tagging” have become more common. These devices especially allow schools to track students on and off school grounds. A San Antonio student was suspended from school in 2013, for refusing to carry the school-issued RFID card. Later that year, she lost her lawsuit against the school for the suspension.

WHAT DATA IS BEING COLLECTED?

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.” Those were the words of Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responding to Rep. Glenn Grothman’s (of Wisconsin) request to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school,” in 2015. He wasn’t kidding! As an article in the New York Times put it, “The collection of student data is out of control.”

Obama administration Department of Education’s bureaucratic gutting of FERPA, which took effect in 2012, made it legal for information about you and your children to be shared with “stakeholders” without your consent.  The Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan defines stakeholders, by stating “stakeholders include leaders; teachers, faculty, and other educators; researchers; policymakers; funders; technology developers; community members and organizations; and learners and their families.” Tragically, most parents are unaware of how widely their children’s personally identifiable information (PII) is share, nor just how immense the scope of data is that is constantly being collected.  While the federal government is currently banned from creating a database for the compilation of student data, there is no such prohibition on states or private entities.

Below is a list of data often collected (and permanently stored) at the state and private level:

  • Medical information and juvenile court records (which, when shared directly by the school, does not have to meet HIPAA regulations or legal requirements for juvenile protections typically ensured by the courts), and other juvenile, adult, and family information (data) which is collected via various state agencies/departments, such as child services, the health department, and the department of corrections (Washington Post)
  • Demographics, disability status and diagnosis, housing status, as well as “student detentions, letters of apology, demerits, warnings, counseling, suspension and expulsion records, whether the student was involved in an incident that involved weapons, whether he or she was arrested, whether there was a court hearing and what the judicial outcome and punishment was, including incarceration” (Washington Post)
  • Affective data (non-cognitive), defined as “a state linked to ‘neurobiology, psychophysiology, and consciousness,’” including response to stimuli, habits, actions, response time, “smiles or frowns, changes in pupil dilation, eye-movement tracking, heart rate” and emotions (in order to learn how to regulate and alter a student’s affect) (The New American); motivation and mindset (2017 National Education Technology Plan)
  • “political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent; mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family, sex behavior or attitudes; illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior; critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or income,” in addition to Social Security Number, date of birth, parents’ names, mother’s maiden name, and place of birth (The New American)
  •  Teacher observation on said student, teacher feedback for said student, student equity, scores, summative assessments, and data collected electronically through technological learning tools (2017 National Education Technology Plan)

SO WHAT? WHO CARES? WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?

The collection of immeasurable amounts of data on individuals is a very big deal, and it creates a variety of risks for both individual citizens, as well as for groups of citizens. A discussion of these risks is warranted. However, for the sake of brevity, I will discuss the topic of risks at length in a following article. For now, I encourage you to learn which data points your state collects, as well as the data-sharing policy(ies) in place. I also encourage you to submit a request to view your own data and that of your child (without charge), which is highly recommended since erroneous information has been attached to individual citizens in the past (see the example of father John Eppolito). Also, keep in mind the 5 principles of student privacy when investigating and evaluating your state’s policies: transparency, no commercial uses, security protections, parental/student rights, and enforcement. Lastly, talk with your child’s school about any possible pilot programs that will be taking place in your child’s classroom, such as BrainCo’s “headbands”, as well as whether or not your may opt your child out of that pilot.

Paige Rogers is a Christian artist and author, and a former professional practitioner in the field of Early Childhood Development. She is the creator of ThePaintingPastor.org, a blog offering Christian reflection, exhortation and discernment alongside various artistic techniques visually documented through Paige's unique artistic endeavors. A lover of learning, Paige is an avid enthusiast of history, civics, political geography and human nature, physical geography and the sciences. She is an incurably inquisitive and chronically creative “egghead.” Paige is a strong supporter of America's service members and veterans.

Democrats

Educational Malpractice, Pt 2: Failure of identity politics on display

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“What a snake pit.” Those were the words of one teacher, commenting on Twitter in response to my February 6th article (detailing the malfeasance uncovered after a local principle blew the whistle in a fiery letter released to the public), to describe the Shelby County Schools system (SCS).

Another person commented, “I would wager there are more instances of this sort of behavior going on across the country in similarly-positioned school systems.”

Neither comment brought me any joy, but I suspect both are correct.

For this, I continue in my examination into my local school system, an examination of issues which are often diluted in reports published by our compliant, local press. Perhaps removing the veil can bring positive change to other school systems.

What hasn’t been said in the press, I intend to say.

The Death of a Successful School System

Shelby County Schools, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, has not always been embroiled in scandal and failure. In fact, Shelby County Schools has a record of proven success, earning high ratings year after year.

That all ended, just 5 years ago, with the largest school system consolidation in American history: the Memphis City Schools (MCS) system was completely dissolved and then merged with the Shelby County Schools (SCS) system.

Historical Corruption and White Flight

In Memphis, history repeats itself: politicians who have been convicted of criminal corruption are routinely re-elected.

Take Rickey Peete, for example. Beginning in the 1980’s, Rickey Peete served on the Memphis City Schools Board, and was then elected to the Memphis City Council.

  • In 1989, Peete was convicted of taking bribes and extortion, and served a 2 ½ year prison sentence.
  • In 1995, Rickey Peete was again elected to the Memphis City Council, and was later re-elected 2 more times!
  • In 2007, Peete was, once again, convicted for extortion and accepting bribes, earning himself a 4-year prison sentence. “He and fellow council member Edmund Ford were charged in late 2006 with taking bribes from former County Commissioner Joe Cooper, who was recording their conversations for the FBI,” (Memphis Flyer).

Then there are the Fords; a family of politicians that could be described as a criminal enterprise. And, lest we forget, the FBI’s Operation Tennessee Waltz offers a sobering reminder of the corruption that has haunted the area.

Thus, plagued by decades of political woes and poor policies, more and more people moved out of Memphis – often incurring debt in order to do so – and into the surrounding cities hoping to escape the rising crime rates and the downward decent in quality and safety of the city’s troubled schools.

Although the areas of Shelby County which are outside of the City of Memphis are just slightly over 50% white, the departure of city residents away from Memphis is pejoratively called “white flight.”

The Funding Structure  –

All county residents’ county-wide property taxes were divided between the Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County Schools based on the number of students. This structure allocated more funds to the City of Memphis since the city’s schools had a higher number of students than the county’s school system.

The Memphis City Schools operated as a special school district. Residents of Memphis paid additional property taxes that were allocated to the city’s schools. As such, Memphis City Schools operated with a larger budget; funded by county and city residents, allowing for significantly higher per-student spending than that of Shelby County Schools.

In addition to various special programs, Memphis City Schools students’ athletics were publicly funded, while Shelby County students’ athletics were funded entirely by their parents.

Yet, Memphis City Schools were constantly facing funding difficulties, and threatening to dissolve the school system entirely became a norm.

In an act of desperation, hoping to keep the crooked fingers of Memphis corruption from taking over the county’s high-functioning, successful school district, the Shelby County Schools board began exploring legal ways of obtaining special district status for the county system, the same special district status that Memphis City Schools enjoyed.

A Hostile Takeover

By 2010, due to mismanagement and corruption, the City of Memphis had defaulted on tens of millions of dollars designated for the city’s schools. In a rushed vote brought on by funding woes and by the efforts of SCS to obtain special district status, the MCS school board hastily threw in the towel, voting to dissolve the charter of Memphis City Schools altogether.

A referendum vote was then scheduled for Memphis residents to approve the council’s choice for system dissolution. County residents did not have any voice in what was to happen to their school system should MCS merge into it.

If the referendum passed, Memphis representatives, based on population, would then secure the majority of SCS school board seats.

It passed, and the Memphis City Schools system officially ceased to exist.

Those Rich, Racist Bastards!

Leading up to the referendum vote, “journalists” and education “advocates” and politicians repeatedly put forth the premise that education in Shelby County was unequal, despite the higher public spending per pupil and the public funding of various support programs in Memphis City schools which would disappear should the city schools be dissolved.

The residents of the suburbs and of unincorporated Shelby County were labeled racists and their genuine concern for their children was painted as an attempt to maintain boundaries of segregation. County residents were framed as rich white people who hate black people and who are inexcusably greedy, selfishly hoarding their riches in hopes of keeping black children in poverty.

In the county schools, technology such as Promethean Boards and learning programs such as Accelerated reader were entirely funded by parents. This technology was absent from Memphis City Schools. The stark contrast in parental involvement the positive effects of high levels of parental involvement on student achievement was brushed aside, as if invalid.

With complete disregard for the studies highlighting the negative effects of system mergers on students, especially low-income minority students, the “advocates” persisted.

The gross failures of the Memphis City Schools system which had persisted because of systemic corruption, a climate of mediocrity, and vast ineptitude was simply re-framed as “separate and unequal education.” 

City residents swallowed this racist, classist, shamefully dishonest ploy hook, line, and sinker.

Memphis City Schools system officially merged into Shelby County Schools in 2013; representatives from Memphis secured majority rule of the SCS board, effecting every single public school-attending child in the county.

Shelby County Schools became the largest school system in the country.

Curiously, and reeking of Memphis politics, the attorney representing the Memphis City Schools during the years-long merger process then became the superintendent for the new, unified Shelby County Schools system.

The Results

Predictably, the endemic dysfunction that characterized Memphis City Schools now characterizes the Shelby County Schools system. The same failing schools are still failing. The same inept leadership keeps on leading.

Even rumors of school board corruption still persist.

The worst result, which was completely predictable I must add, was the phenomenon of once high-performing schools across the county subsequently dropping precipitously in quality.

For example, what was once a top-performing elementary school around the corner from my house is now a level 1 school (at the bottom of the rankings).

The problems that plagued Memphis City Schools were never addressed.

 It was far easier to feign virtuous, employing the abhorrent politics of identity, than it was to seek genuine solutions. So, it should be absolutely no surprise that the results have been, in a nutshell, the spread of failure.

Thankfully, for at least some of Shelby County’s children, the story doesn’t end here. There was a great divorce that took place, benefitting thousands of students.

Yet, it is because of this “divorce” that the residents of Shelby County are once again being plastered as racists and classists, rich whites, on a national scale; and residents have become the target of well-funded, Marxist proponents of the “sustainability” movement.

This, I will discuss in Part 3 (the final part).

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Culture and Religion

Video: You’re Not A Liberal!

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A Truth Revolt Original from Bill Whittle that succinctly explains why Leftists aren’t Liberal.

Published on Oct 10, 2014

The 4:20 minute mark in the 6 minute video has its most important point:

The founding fathers were the True Liberals because they believed in Liberty – with both words having the same origins.

They believed in individual Liberty, private property, limited government and the common sense civil rights of free-speech and armed self-defence. They believed in the freedom to be left alone.

The point of the video is that the collectivists of the nation’s Socialist-Left do not meet the definition of the word Liberal. They believe in collective rights, Collective ownership of property, unlimited government, limitations on speech and gun confiscation.

Those of that mindset (Leftists) are not Liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

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Education

Educational malpractice Pt. 1: fraud, sex and football in Memphis, TN

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“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that covers up gross negligence among multiple Principals and Senior and Junior District Level supervisors who participate in sexual relationships with teachers/employees/support staff whom they supervise, which directly violates Tennessee law and requires revocation of their license and termination from supervisory positions. This is a common and accepted practice.”

With its headquarters located in The Home of the Blues, the Shelby County Schools system has been singing the blues lately, and for good reason.

It was back in June of 2017, when the trouble really kick-started.  Trezevant High School principal, Ronnie Mackin, released a head-turning, six-page resignation letter in which he outlined a series of complaints against Shelby County Schools, including, among other things:

  • grade-changing (which a three-lawyer panel investigation proved to be systemic);
  • sexual improprieties between faculty, staff, and district supervisors (an issue reported in another area high school as well);
  • breaches in security at the school (one incident was later uncovered on surveillance footage);
  • racist conduct by school system administrators, supervisors, and other district officials;
  • financial mishandlings and possible theft of school funds (SCS later opened a separate investigation into this matter);
  • kickbacks;
  • and pay-to-play for certain athletes.

Mackin closed his resignation letter with a series of powerful declarations, several of which I have included throughout this article in italicized form.

Back in August of 2016, Principal Mackin –  brand new to Trezevant High School – approached Shelby County Schools (SCS) district leadership after uncovering wide-spread grade-changes. Students’ report cards did not align with their official transcripts.

Some students’ grades were changed from failing to passing, while others received credit for courses not taken. This, according to Mackin, put 121 out of 145 seniors at risk of not graduating.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where it is common knowledge that certain schools have cheated to attain “other than normal” achievement gains.”

Trezevant High School’s 2015-2016 graduation rate was 49%, which improved 16% in the 2014-15 school year which remains well-under district, state, and national averages.

As Mackin later elucidated, “Changing grades from failing to passing, artificially raising graduation rates, and falsifying college transcripts have become part of a big business,” noting the compensation structure within the school system which are “based on a mythical system of accountability,” and which ultimately encourage unethical behavior.

An internal district investigation by Shelby County Schools was begun.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that promotes dishonesty, fraud, and misrepresentations of academic progress in order to promote athletic success.”

Because a large number of the grade-changes effected football players, Trezevant’s football team was forced to forfeit all games until the investigation had been completed, which prompted protests from students.

The Trezevant High School football team won the state championship the prior school year.

Over the course of the remaining school year, Principal Mackin’s car was vandalized with racist language (“white boy b**** a**”), and a whisper campaign against him ensued within the community, which according to Mackin’s resignation letter, was instigated by several SCS district officials.

Such incidents included:

  • the implication the Mackin, as a white man, was culturally illiterate and ineffective at his post;
  • a voicemail on a parent’s phone by Mackin’s supervisor encouraging that parent to seek legal action against Mackin “under false pretenses”;
  • and district officials instigating parents to perform a background check on Mackin (which ultimately found nothing).

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where district level supervisors are not only allowed to bully and harass school level Principals, Teachers, and Support Staff, they are encouraged.”

The district’s internal investigation had concluded in October of 2016:

“We have identified 131 students currently enrolled in the district whose transcripts were altered by a staff member of Trezevant . . . All these students were previously enrolled at Trezevant at some point during their time in high school. 92 of these students are still enrolled at Trezevant, 44 of whom are seniors. The remaining 39 (of the 131) are now enrolled in 22 different high schools. Of these 39 students, 15 are seniors. (Other schools will be contacted as needed.)”

Shelby County Schools maintained the stance that the grading discrepancies were isolated to Trezevant High School. The school secretary was fired and the head football coach was suspended for 5 days.

The incident was settled and swept aside.

But not for Ronnie Mackin.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that allows District Leadership to collude, interfere, and influence DUE PROCESS in order to protect employees tied by long standing acquaintance, sexual relationships, and fraternal/sorority affiliations from being disciplined fairly and according to policy.”

After Mackin’s fiery resignation letter was made public, a full 10 months after he had first uncovered and reported the grading discrepancies to the school district, SCS appointed a panel of lawyers to investigate the incident.

Now, the panel’s findings have been released, and the picture painted by the findings is bleak.

As the Commercial Appeal reported:

“At least 53 students graduated from Trezevant without earning their diplomas, according to findings from the report released Tuesday. That increased the graduation rate 14 percent over a four-year period from 2012-2016. During that time, 461 grades at that school were changed from failing to passing.

Kirby High had 582 failing grades changed to passing grades.

After Trezevant, Raleigh-Egypt High had 429 such changes.”

The report called for even further investigations, indicating Trezevant was merely the tip of the iceberg; a recommendation which the SCS board subsequently encouraged. Eight different schools are now undergoing audits.

The state Department of Education also urged the district to investigate further, ordering expansive audits for all Shelby County Schools for the next three years.

In addition, the State has requested the names of all who were involved in altering students’ grades.

“The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office is investigating Trezevant at the request of Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. Those investigators have the freedom to expand their investigation as necessary,” the Commercial Appeal reported.

Shelby County Schools accreditation is even on the line. As Fox 13 Memphis reported, it’s the damning findings found in the panel’s report “that now has AdvancED, the agency that issues and oversees important school accreditations, wondering what’s going on inside SCS?”

The board has also moved to fire Trezevant’s head football coach, who had since been moved to a different area high school.

In a January op-ed in the Commercial Appeal, Mackin put the practice of grade-changing into full perspective:

“Students have become commodities (priced at around $11,500 per student) to some educators who are willing to promote them and get them out of school in hopes for big returns in the future.

This is child exploitation and abuse.”

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where students are the last priority…”

Had it not been for the actions of one brave (and royally ticked off) principal, a man who chose to sacrifice his own 19-year long career for the betterment of our community’s youths and who has continued to speak out, the improprieties within the school system would have never been uncovered, nor addressed.

We may never find out the degree of rot within the adult culture of Shelby County Schools, or just how many bad actors we have employed.

It has only been a few years since Memphis schools were rocked by a teacher licensing-exam “cheating ring” that spanned three states. The mastermind was a 23-year employee, having served as a teacher, an assistant principal and a guidance counselor for the school system. Multiples teacher were indicted.

Dorsey Hopson, who serves as the superintendent of Shelby County Schools, said at the time, “It would be unfair to let what may be 50, 60 or 100 teachers who did some wrong stain the good work of the large number of teachers and administrators who get up every day and go by the book.”

Sadly, there is one thing of which we can be certain: where there is one bad actor, there are many.

Fallen apples don’t rot far from the tree.

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