Atlanta’s educators and the cheating scandal blame game

The country has been shocked by news that the award-winning Atlantic Public School system achieved its students’ high test scores via nearly a decade of systematic cheating by teachers and administrators.

While the Atlanta testing scandal is shaping up to be one of the largest instances of institutionalized cheating the country has seen, the phenomenon is not unusual.

In recent years officials and whistle-blowers have revealed numerous instances of teachers altering answers, failing to adhere to test requirements, and/or silencing dissenters in Maryland, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

With the relatively high rate of cheating and cheating allegations throughout the country, many are pointing to the fact that tests now carry greater consequences than they did before. Some say that with the stakes so high, cheating is to be expected.

“Few who have paid attention in the education era of high-stakes testing will be surprised at this,” Valerie Strauss wrote in The Washington Post last week. “And the stakes are only getting higher for teachers and principals, who are increasingly being evaluated and paid according to how well their students do on standardized tests, despite research showing that test-driven reform hasn’t made an impact in the last decade on student achievement. ”

Atlanta Public Schools Interim Superintendent Erroll Davis has argued, however, that cheating is less about the stakes and more about the climate which allowed the epidemic to fester.

“I do not accept a focus on performance causes people to cheat,” Davis said to reporters,“What motivates people to cheat … is a climate that allows cheating to occur without consequences.”

Nevertheless, the prevailing sentiment among teachers and pundits is that with teachers’ evaluations tied to test performance, cheating is understandable.

“I am convinced you’ll see more [cheating],” DeKalb County teacher Laura Pittman, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Anybody whose job is tied to performance, it is a setup.”

Indeed, many charge that the teachers are not to blame, but rather that the 2001 bipartisan “No Child Left Behind” education law is the true culprit.

“Everyone here is pointing the finger at No Child Left Behind, the federal policy that made test scores king, closing schools with low scores, and rewarding schools with high ones,” explained ABC correspondent Steve Osunsami on World News. “This former superintendent is accused of encouraging the cheating. She received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses tied to improved test scores. I’m personally friends with a good number of teachers in this community who tell me that they’re under tremendous pressure. They say that the same parents who are angry about all the cheating would be even more furious if the schools started reporting lower test scores.”

  • hedge685

    This is what you get when black democrats are put in charge of something…ie Detroit, US Justice Department, Massachusetts, the Presidency of the US…need I go on?

  • Sproing

    Of course those who have been unmasked are going to blame anyone and anything other then their own sorry morality and ethics. It’s certainly Bush’s fault with No Child Left Behind as opposed to their own weakness and the weakness and arrogance of their leadership at every level. It’s also the union itself who, instead of protecting it’s member’s state and nationwide became part of the group that allowed this long term thievery from the American taxpayer and more importantly the education of the very students they were pledged to care for.

    Every single individual who is found to have participated, regardless of position or self-serving defense (I was only following orders), should lose their jobs and any and all benefits that they might have been awarded as a result of their tenure or years of service. Furthermore they should also be band from life as far as any position of education either public or private. Until we start actually making the punishment for such egregious misfeasance and malfeasance as tough as we can then we are , in essence,giving a nod of approval to those whose go along attitude allowed schemes like this to exist.

    Until the public becomes truly outraged at actions such as this it will continue to deteriorate. The whining blather of the brain dead left that will surely come forward to defend the indefensible should be cut off at the knees, as it is thinking such as their’s that over the years has deepened this pit of corruption and allowed it to prosper and grow.

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  • Jess Thinkin

    There exists in this auditorium of outraged commentary a huge elephant that NO-ONE dast mention. Well, I, for one remember what our erstwhile Attorney General stated (with no effect [typical of this administration])not long ago. We are all cowards when it comes to talking about….TaDah…. RACE. So, I hereby shed the clothes of cowardice and point out that all of the teachers and administrators implicated in this scandal were, and continue to be—black; and all the affected schools are exclusively—-black. Perhaps we really shouldn’t paint all teachers with the same broad brush, but instead zero in on the common thread that links all the perpetrators (and their ‘victims’). (Strictly for the purpose of future Social Scientific studies – of which, there will be many [this whole business will have to be ‘scrubbed’]). Is the previous statement racist or the simple expression of an important factor for consideration in the ‘movement forward’? C’mon now people, let’s not be cowards. Barack and Eric would be sooo proud!

    I’m afraid Atlanta has become ground-zero on the tectonic plates of the ‘cultural divide’.