Yesterday, I read about the Atlantic Public Schools cheating scandal and was appalled. In order to raise test scores, some principals photocopied the test booklet ahead of time and gave them to the teachers, while at other schools teachers participated in “changing parties” where they got together and changed answers on student answer sheets. Higher up the administrative ladder, Supervisors threatened whistle blowers and the Superintendent ignored complaints and destroyed evidence. Special Investigators from the Governor’s office confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools with 178 educators being named as participants. It could turn out to be the most wide-reaching test cheating scandal in U.S. history.
As a teacher of 23 years, I found this news outrageous! How could people entrusted with the education of an entire city’s school children engage in such wide-spread deception? And what about all the kids who were “passed along” because their falsified test scores proclaimed them proficient? Faced with such mind-blowing corruption in public education, I felt the need to vent my outrage. I emailed the article to Jill and another teacher friend with a couple of angry comments added, but I needed a more public display. I needed to post it so all my friends could share in my indignation…
I signed into Facebook. I started by posting a link to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article with the heading “Superintendent, Principals, Teachers, Cheating. Unbelievable.” To drive it home I followed up with a couple of shocking quotes from the article:
Quote: “At Gideons Elementary, teachers sneaked tests off campus and held a weekend “changing party” at a teacher’s home in Douglas County to fix answers.”
Quote: “The testing coordinator handed out answer-key transparencies to place over answer sheets so the job would go faster.”
Then I sat back and waited for the outrage. It didn’t come. The gist of the response I got (from mostly teachers): “High-stakes testing is to blame.”
- Not the dishonorable former Superintendent who duped an entire community?
- Not the unscrupulous supervisors and principals who coerced and intimidated teachers?
- Not the unethical teachers who embraced the culture by having “changing parties”?
Can we really excuse fraudulent behavior because of pressure from testing? No, we can’t.
Educators are supposed to educate students, not cheat for them. Teachers and principals and administrators are supposed to conduct themselves with integrity and honesty and model the same ethical behavior we expect from our students in our classrooms. But because of the deceitful practices of the APS, the school children of Atlanta have been cheated out of honest assessment and quite possibly a quality education for ten years.
I have to wonder, if those Atlanta educators had put the past ten years of effort into educating, motivating, and inspiring, instead of lying, cheating and covering up…What would their test scores be?