Monday, July 18, 2011

Week of 07/18/2011

Atlanta’s Education Disgrace
– by David Matthews 2

There’s an old joke about a company CEO who wanted to see how smart his people were, so he went through the various departments to ask them what two plus two equaled. Every department, in their own unique way, would each say “four”. Then he went to the accountant, who closed the blinds, locked the door, turned off the recording devices, and then whispered into the CEO’s ear “What do you want it to equal?”

That, unfortunately, seems to be the new response to the Atlanta’s education system.

For the past few weeks, there have been a series of reports here in Atlanta about how school systems changed student tests, rigging the results so certain schools would appear to be performing better. And this supposedly wasn’t just recent. According to one report, this went back ten years, and despite warnings in 2005 that this was going on, the school system either did nothing or destroyed evidence of the cheating.

The allegations are sickening. Teachers being pressured by principals to make changes and so-called “test-changing parties” being held to alter the tests submitted by students is nothing short of disgraceful. Former School Superintendant Beverly Hall was even named “Superintendent of the Year” in 2009, in the midst of the cheating scandal! Forty-four out of fifty-six public schools in Atlanta were supposedly involved! Over eighty percent!

Great… we’ve gone from “Johnny can’t read” to “Waiting for Superman” to a really bad joke about Corporate America.

Bear in mind that the students themselves had nothing to do with it. As far as they are supposedly concerned, they did everything expected of them. They actually believed that they were doing better than they really were. But think, for a moment, about the student whose test answers were changed… if that student has a serious learning problem, nobody would know.

You know, once upon a time there was at least the PRETENSE of messing with a student’s education for the sake of some greater good for that student, such as a college scholarship and a potential future in professional sports. But here the teachers and principals can’t even pretend that they’re doing this for the students! This was done purely for themselves.

And now the big discussion is supposedly… what to do with the teachers and administrators responsible.

That should be obvious, shouldn’t it?

Let’s get brutally hones there… what was done was more than just “cheating”… this was a case of FRAUD to an extreme degree. The material gains in this case came in the form of promotions and government grants. Those involved were rewarded for gains that were not theirs to begin with. That fits the definition of FRAUD.

In other words, firing those involved should be the LEAST of punishments involved. There needs to be CRIMINAL charges as well; certainly for the most blatant instances of cheating, such as the ones involved in the “changing parties”.

And this commentator notices that a lot of emphasis has been placed on the teachers, but what about the school administrators that pushed for this? There’s been very little word about the principals and assistant principals that gave the order to change the test results. They would be the ones that would “crack the whip” on this kind of operation, so why isn’t there any talk about what’s going to be done about them?

This scandal has widespread implications for the public school system in general. Already conservative and neo-conservative forces have been doing everything they can to dismantle public education, herding as many children as possible into private schools. They’ve been able to do this on the theory that private education would actually give students an edge. With the Atlanta Public School System now known for cheating on the very standardized tests that would either prove or disprove this theory, the conservative and neo-conservative argument essentially wins by default. They can now use this as the justification to dismantle public education even further. After all, how can public schools prove they’re capable of doing their jobs when they have been caught cheating?

Atlanta Public School System teachers and administrators, all funded by taxpayer money, are now stained by this mess, and it would be extremely hard to trust them or the quality of their work in the immediate future because of this. But they’re not the only ones affected by this mess. The students whose results were changed will never know how good they really are. The few public schools that did not participate in the systematic cheating will be tarred with the same brush as those that did. And those within the APSS that did not participate in the cheating will also have their careers scrutinized from this point forward. And the taxpayers themselves, the people who are financing all of this, are now going to start to wonder if the public school system itself is worth keeping.

Right now the numbers don’t look good for them, and, this time around, they can’t rig the results.


YhuntressE said...

Let's not forget the Neo-Cons attempt to butcher history in Texas to fit their standards in school like omitting Thomas Jefferson because he wasn't Christian enough.

As for privatizing schools, I worry that kids from lower class families wouldn't be able to afford schooling, get some company-owned one that cuts corners to create future workers and/or forced to sacrifice an education for a dead-end job.

And throw that in with a number of right-wingers and ultra free-marketers who'd love to get rid of child labor laws and you got a new class of desperate, undereducated workers.

David 2 said...

Well the focus here is Atlanta's school system, and it's hard to counter the conservative/neo-conservative agenda when the standard itself is bypassed.