It’s the Enron of education.
The biggest scandal in American public education in our lifetimes – perhaps ever – continues this week with the jail processing of nearly three dozen Atlanta educators charged in a 65-count indictment over systematic score-rigging on standardized tests.
The shocking saga of brazen academic corruption represents a low point in already-beleaguered American education, and a dizzying fall from grace for former Superintendent Beverly Hall – once heralded as national superintendent of the year.
“Nearly 200 educators admitted to taking part in the massive scandal,” reported CBS, which led its national 9 a.m. radio broadcast with the scandal story Tuesday. “They tampered with students’ standardized tests and corrected answers to inflate scores. Some teachers had pizza parties to erase wrong answers and circle in the right ones. One principal allegedly handled altered tests wearing gloves to avoid leaving her fingerprints.”
“Former Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall,” as another news report summarizes the indictment, “was the leader of a corrupt organization that used students’ test scores to earn bonuses if they rose, or intimidation and termination if they fell ...”
Thank goodness someone in Atlanta was looking at other people’s work: Our friends at
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as they tell it, “detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at one Atlanta school in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests at a dozen Atlanta schools.”
The cheating by some of Hall’s top deputies, principals, teachers and a secretary, the newspaper says, ultimately occurred across dozens of schools in Atlanta.
One email to us this week suggested the Atlanta schools scandal is a sign that “too much emphasis is put upon meeting goals with standardized testing.”
What claptrap. We’ll grant you that the obsession with standardized tests is a problem. But the result of that preoccupation with test scores is frustrated teachers and poorly educated students – not cheating.
The Atlanta scandal is a sign of nothing more than the fact that the district was led and populated by unscrupulous, self-serving and perhaps even crooked educators more worried about their own advancement than their students’.
Don’t fall for the canard that “too much emphasis” on anything is an excuse for, or leads inexorably to, criminality or a lack of ethics. There’s only one thing that went wrong in the Atlanta cheating scandal: The perpetrators were cheats.
What kind of mirror-gazing degenerate tries to fool schoolchildren and their families into thinking the students know more than they actually do – in order to gain financially and professionally himself or herself?
Isn’t that cynically setting children up for failure later in life?
Here’s hoping the students are smarter than before, simply for having seen what happens to impenitent, self-serving cheaters.