With each passing day, more and more information is coming forth regarding the massive cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public School system. A report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) indicates that at least 178 named teachers and principals were involved, with 82 having already admitted their guilt. Apparently, there existed a decade-long “widespread” conspiracy to change student answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), a standardized test given to all Atlanta public school students in grades 1-8. How widespread? Fifty- six schools were investigated, and 44 (80%) were found guilty of cheating.
Superintendent Beverly Hall, who had led the district for twelve years and had been named U.S. Superintendent of the Year in 2009, has not been implicated, but the GBI report states that she knew about the cheating or should have known. When she left the district last June, she blamed other administrators for the scandal. Her notoriety was a direct result of the “improved” test scores during her tenure.
The story gets worse. According to the report, the district adamantly refused to investigate accusations of wrongdoing or assume any responsibility. The schools district administration told principals not to cooperate with investigators, and teachers who tried to blow the whistle on the cheating were labeled as disgruntled troublemakers while others were fired.
The obvious question is, “Why?” Why would so many teachers and administrators, people who are supposed to be examples to children, conspire to cheat? Rather than admit a lack of moral integrity, there are those who make excuses for the culprits. Education author Diane Ravitch blames the No Child Left Behind law: “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 and math by the year 2014 or their schools will be shutdown.” Robert Schaeffer, of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, an organization that sees all standardized tests as unfair and probably racist, says, “When test scores are all that matter, some educators feel pressured to get the scores they need by hook or by crook. The higher the stakes, the greater the incentive to manipulate, to cheat.”
So, let me see if I understand this. If a law places perceived unrealistic demands on educators, then cheating becomes the “normal” response. The perpetrators are good people; it’s the law that is the problem. I wonder how many of these educators would accept the same excuse from their students. I can hear Johnny now: “Mrs. Jones, I had to cheat on the test because your expectations were just too high.” Sure, that will go over well.
Well, then, if the reader isn’t going to buy the “bad law” excuse, then what’s left? The answer may make certain people uncomfortable, but it needs to be said. The educators cheated because they did not believe their students could succeed without manipulating the tests. In other words, the students were simply incapable of learning the material. This leads to other questions. Were the students incapable of passing because they were just stupid? Or were they incapable of passing because they were trapped in a school district filled with incompetent adults? Or were they incapable of passing because most of them come from dysfunctional homes where education is at the bottom of the priority totem pole? Perhaps it is a combination of two of the above or all three. The bottom line is still the same: Those who cheated were more concerned about saving their jobs and their schools then doing whatever they could to raise the abilities of their students.
To be fair, the task of teaching children in poor neighborhoods is daunting. The odds are truly stacked against success. But the education establishment, particularly in large urban settings, must recognize the two great dangers that threaten their children. First, many school systems are run by corrupt and/or incompetent individuals. Second, the breakdown of the family practically guarantees failure. As for the first danger, some districts have made an attempt to weed out those who have corrupted the system. As for the second danger, the silence is deafening. And why is that the case? Because to admit to the danger, one must, at the same time, admit that the sexual revolution and the welfare state have been colossal failures. And who in the inner city political, religious, and educational circle will publicly say so? Call me when you find one. Until then, with apologies to Sonny & Cher, “The Cheat Goes On.”