You’ve seen those reports about our students’ test scores improving, right?
I’ve seen them too and I was skeptical. Why? Because those reports simply went against everything else we know about our declining culture, standards, and our young people. As an example, a Marist Poll found that 1 of 4 Americans (26%) do not even know against which country the American Revolution was fought! Some of the countries mentioned were France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain.
So, it comes as no surprise to learn this morning of the massive cheating that’s been going on in the public school system of Atlanta, Georgia.
Mark Strassman reports for CBS News, July 5, 2011, that 80% (or 44 out of 56) of the public schools in Atlanta were found to have cheated on tests — for the last 10 years. The cheating wasn’t done by students, but by 178 principals and teachers.
Dozens of educators erased wrong student answers on state standardized tests, and inserted the right ones. In all, investigators accused 38 principals of cheating and said 82 of the 178 educators they identified as part of the scandal confessed.
Potential whistle-blowers were bullied, or worse. At one Atlanta high school, former teacher Paul Landerman saw a teacher helping 50 students change test answers. He reported it. The next day, he says, he was fired because “The greatest value inside that system is loyalty to the system.”
The motive for cheating?
It was to show phony progress at often troubled schools, which of course brought out the usual liberal scapegoating finger-pointers, such as NYU professor Diane Ravitch who blames a federal law that links funding with test performance: “We have a terrible federal law called No Child Left Behind that says that all schools have to have 100 percent of their students proficient in reading in math by the year 2014 or their schools will be shut down.”
The school investigation is very critical of Beverly Hall, former superintendent of Atlanta’s public school system. Atlanta schools showed such progress during her term that in 2009, Hall was named America’s superintendent of the year. But investigators say Hall either knew of the cheating, or should have. She has denied that, but in her retirement video last month blamed other employees.: “I am confident that aggressive, swift action will be taken against anyone who believes so little in our students and in our system of support that they turned to dishonesty as the only option.”
Potential whistle-blowes were bullied, or worse. At one Atlanta high school, former teacher Paul Landerman saw a teacher helping 50 students change test answers. He reported it. The next day, he says, he was fired because “The greatest value inside that system is loyalty to the system.”
Atlanta’s cheating involved the same sort of standardized tests used all over the country. Atlanta’s scandal is the biggest in recent years, but other school systems, in Baltimore, Houston and Detroit, have had isolated cheating issues on state-wide tests.
As for whether there could be worse punishment for the cheaters, a standardized test is a government document. Altering one in Georgia can be a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Isn’t it interesting that when you click “Salaries” on the Atlanta Public Schools Human Resource Services website, you get this error message:
“Server Not Found.”
Undeterred, I did find the following information on the Teacher Portal website:
The teacher/student ratio is Atlanta, GA is 13.7
TeacherPortal’s Salary Rank for Georgia public schools: 3rd
For Georgia public school teachers:
- Starting Salary: $34,442
- Average Salary: $48,300
- Salary Raise Last Year: 3.81%
- Salary Raise Last 10 Years: 42.1%
Hmm, let me see if I got this right:
- Cheating by teachers in Atlanta public schools is believed to have gone on for 10 years.
- The same Atlanta public school teachers enjoyed a salary increase of 42.1% in the last 10 years.
We know there’s one thing Atlanta’s public school students have learnt:
UPDATE (April 1, 2013):
Nearly two years after the cheating scandal came to light, former superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 other administrators are finally indicted — on racketeering and conspiracy. See “Justice! – Former superintendent indicted for Atlanta public schools cheating.“