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Michael Klentschy, former superintendent of El Centro Elementary School District, today (March 12) pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud charges related to school math and science grants.

According to court documents, Klentschy admitted that during his tenure from 1994 to 2007, he was paid $90,000 as part of a $400,000 grant, claiming to be a research assistant, although he was not.

Similarly, as part of grant, he got $78,000 by untruthfully claiming to be an assistant research director.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, he arranged that two close family friends would get monies for work that was not completed, and he also raked in $60,000 in a scheme to pad expense accounts.

Government losses were $325,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. He will be sentenced later. Maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.

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Comments

Don Bauder March 12, 2012 @ 10:18 p.m.

The sum is small compared with some of San Diego's big-time crooks, but the fact that he was a school superintendent makes his crimes deplorable. Best, don bauder

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Burwell March 12, 2012 @ 10:05 p.m.

He'll be sentenced to Club Fed. Once at the Club, he will start jogging, lifting weights, and lose 40 pounds. His stint in prison will add at least 10 years to his life, and he will not pay a dime of restitution.

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Don Bauder March 12, 2012 @ 10:20 p.m.

How many rogues ever pay the restitution they are ordered to pay? Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell March 12, 2012 @ 11:20 p.m.

It looks like Klentschy is collecting pension checks from two different school districts. When he gets out of prison he will have health insurance and a good monthly income. He won't wind up living under a bridge, or have to wash dishes to support himself. He's set for life.

http://www.laserscienceevents.si.edu/faculty/MKlentschy.html

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Don Bauder March 13, 2012 @ 7:49 a.m.

Unfortunately, white collar crime pays. Have you noticed that it appears there may be no criminal prosecutions in the MF Global case? Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 March 13, 2012 @ 11:24 a.m.

Have you noticed that it appears there may be no criminal prosecutions in the MF Global case? ==

Yes, I have noticed that-more proof we are a banana republic. But hey, it is not that hard to misplace $1.6 billion, in fact I myself do it at least once a week.

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Don Bauder March 13, 2012 @ 12:09 p.m.

Aha! At last, the truth comes out! SurfPup is a billionaire many times over. You have always had a certain panache, a certain swagger, suggesting that you ride around in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce limo. Best, Don Bauder

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clovis_man March 13, 2012 @ 3:30 p.m.

You forgot the part about Klentschy pleading guilty to falsifying data in order to get the grants in the first place. Turns out that his "science notebook" approach to elementary school instruction -- which is still being used all over the country -- is a bunch of hooey.

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Don Bauder March 13, 2012 @ 3:41 p.m.

I didn't include all his activities in this summary. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Klentschy admitted that data he presented to the National Science Foundation supposedly validating his school science teaching methods were inaccurate and unreliable. He presented purported results of student testing for 2004-2005 in Imperial County to prove the efficacy of his teaching methods. But three-fourths of the test scores were falsified, said the U.S. Attorney. Best, Don Bauder

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clovis_man March 13, 2012 @ 4:31 p.m.

Right. To me, this is the worst part. It's scientific fraud, and it's what makes Klentschy more than a simple thief. Klentschy was famous for his innovative teaching methods, and many grants have since been given to researchers who are trying to reproduce and build on his results. But he was selling snake oil.

Thanks for covering the story. It deserves much broader attention.

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Don Bauder March 13, 2012 @ 5:51 p.m.

You may well be right: I should have covered the scientific fraud in the first brief. Yes, I think this whole Klentschy story does deserve more attention. We tend to think that the major crooks in education are officers of for-profit colleges and coaches and recruiters in college (and high school) sports. We should dig deeper. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister March 13, 2012 @ 9:14 p.m.

. . . a tiny snowflake on the tip of an iceberg.

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Don Bauder March 14, 2012 @ 6:21 a.m.

Probably true, Twister. Best, Don Bauder

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clovis_man March 14, 2012 @ 6:10 a.m.

I think the story is largely slipping under the radar because people tend to ignore El Centro as a sleepy little desert town. But Klentschy's "research" has been highly influential across the nation. He came into El Centro as a hotshot out of UCLA, and we're talking about big NSF grants here. There are many, many teachers and researchers trying to duplicate his approach to science education. It's not necessarily a bad way of teaching science, but too many people are unaware of how he's doctored his results. Google his name and check out all the glowing reviews of his books, his keynote speeches at Los Alamos National Lab, the Smithsonian Institution, etc.

Thanks again for being one of the few journalists covering the story -- and for your responses here in the comments. I think you'd find deeper digging into the story to be rewarding.

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Don Bauder March 14, 2012 @ 6:23 a.m.

If Klentschy's methods for teaching science have been so revered, the topic certainly deserves more consideration. How many Klentschy-like phonies are out there? Best, Don Bauder

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clovis_man March 14, 2012 @ 6:55 a.m.

Good question, but I think the problem is not so much that there are a bunch of phonies as that there are thousands of honest teachers hoping for a magic educational pill, implementing Klentschy-style science notebooks in their classrooms, and expecting that their students' test scores will skyrocket. Then, if those scores don't rise as high as Klentschy's bogus results suggest they should, teachers and their administrators start to wonder what they're doing wrong and they move on to the next fad or simply give up. As I commented earlier, Klentschy's approach isn't all bad. Anything that increases student time spent on authentic scientific inquiry and on writing is bound to have beneficial results. But too many teachers, administrators, and researchers are sticking faithfully to Klentschy's script with unrealistic expectations and without realizing what a huckster he's been.

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Don Bauder March 14, 2012 @ 11:52 a.m.

It seems to me that much of the problem revolves around the excessive emphasis on test scores. Administrators and teachers are obsessed with these scores, but almost have to be because of the importance that higher-ups put on them. Most teachers I know would prefer to teach, not prepare students for tests. Best, Don Bauder

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