General Question

josie's avatar

Do you predict that the Atlanta Public School scandal is the tip of an enormous iceberg?

Asked by josie (22932 points ) July 16th, 2011

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/16/atlanta-schools-created-c_n_900635.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%7C78224
Now that we know about it, I predict a floodgate will open revealing similar outrages in other districts. It is not likely that all the agenda driven, corrupt teachers and administrators in the U.S. live in Atlanta.

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32 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

It’s nice now and than to have one’s innocence reaffirmed. I’m not as jaded as I though I must be if such a thing never occurred to me in all my years of deploring our schools’ emphasis on quantitative achievement. Plenty of folks will be shaking their heads and saying this is the logical outcome of “teaching to the test,” and I think they will be right.

I would be willing to second your prediction. This has echoes of the priest scandal: waves of disclosure following the first revelations. Perhaps this is what’s needed to bring about a real revolution in educational values.

flutherother's avatar

The problem here is the pressure teachers were under to achieve ‘results’. No one cared how the ‘results’ were achieved and so teachers were effectively encouraged to let pupils cheat, which goes against every teachers instincts. Teaching and learning is a process that takes place between a teacher and his/her pupils and we should have some respect for this most honourable profession and let the teachers do their jobs.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Let’s hope that your prediction is right. The “No Child Left Behind” and the pressure on teachers to pass students that aren’t ready are both shameful. My sister is a 5th grade teacher in a public school in Virginia, and she has to deal with students/aides in her classroom every year due to this ruling. She also has a few students assigned or not assigned to her class based upon parents’ preference to her ability to grade fairly and not based upon any behind-the-scenes plan to make the school look good. She has dealt with a fair amount of flak from parents and a few other teachers over the years because of this. Fortunately, the school principal supports her.

My apology @josie. This question feels like the dentist just hit a nerve with the drill.

Jeruba's avatar

Oops, I meant to say “now and then.” Also “thought.”

woodcutter's avatar

Teachers are human and to be nervous about losing their livelihood is to be really human so in that instance I would tend to believe this Atlanta scheme is not an isolated one. What is the fix here? Do all the students get a do over and go through the same level twice with real grades? Or is that class just screwed?

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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

From the article…
”...at least four of the district’s top administrators and two principals have been removed and put on paid leave…”

Great. Not only did we pay them to cheat, but now we pay them to sit on their ass and do nothing. Great.

There’s a lesson we should all learn

linguaphile's avatar

I appreciate the ones who recognize that the pressure to teach to the test is corrupting our classrooms. I can’t tell you how much pressure my coworkers and I are under to raise-scores, raise-scores, raise-scores and ALL, I mean ALL of the accountability is on teachers.

I will have at least 5% of my kids per semester say screw this and ‘christmas tree’ their tests (hit a, b , c, d randomly), and I’m still accountable for their results. I teach seniors… by their last semester, many of them have been accepted into colleges and don’t give a fig about the test. Last spring I had two freshmen boys who wanted to see who could go through the test the fastest- they finished 60 questions hitting “A” and “enter” over and over in less than 2 minutes.

Either way, I’m still accountable. Not them, not their parents, not the admin, not the food industry or anyone else… only me, the teacher.

I have had too many meetings where the students’ scores were put in front of me by an smiling administrator with this comment, “You are not a benefit to Ben,” nevermind that Ben’s dad was just busted for cocaine possession, then “Brianna is really blooming this year,” when the only thing Brianna did was finally agree to take the test seriously when I bribed her with a hour of free time afterwards. My admins do not listen to my explanations—I was told, “Regardless of how the child is feeling that day, you are still accountable for the results.” and I am not exagerrating

My school gave preferential treatment to another English teacher for the past 3 years because her test score results were amazing. I was suspicious because all her kids scores would drop in my class (making me look crappy). I found out she was giving them answers. She gets the praise, and because I prefer to be honest, I look like shit? It’s not a good position to be in—having to choose between participating in cheating or looking like the bad teacher.

I do not, in any way, condone what happened in Atlanta… but by god, I sympathize. I can say I’ve never helped any of my students cheat… but with today’s climate, I’m not surprised this is happening.

What makes me SICK is the people who are going to the chopping block for this are the teachers. Not the politicians who created the laws, the parents that rallied behind them, the testing corporations designing the tests to fit white-upper-class-Northeastern-norms, the government passing and mandating NCLB without giving the states extra funding, the media that hypes ‘failing schools…’

When all the teachers are “EXPOSED!!” for being crooks… try to have a little sympathy and rally for educational reforms that increases respect for the teacher’s role. And I don’t mean “highly qualify” them… that was another load of political-baloney.

To answer the question… yes… the iceberg’s humongous and we’re the Titanic.

(putting soapbox away. :D )

flutherother's avatar

@linguaphile I feel for you. I always had a lot of respect for the teachers who taught my kids and little or none for the bureaucrats who ran the schools.

YARNLADY's avatar

i don’t get the uproar. this has been going on since I was in school, a half century ago. As long school districts continue to get bigger and bigger, and require more and more money to operate, it won’t get any better. We need neighborhood schools and neighborhood oversight, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

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Cruiser's avatar

Here all along I thought I got away with bloody murder copying off the smart girl during tests! Wow! Now I see my high GPA was all a setup…a sham!!?? No wonder the teach was always getting a drink of water during tests! Damn that sure takes the fun out of it!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Maybe the kids in American schools cannot score well because more emphasis is placed on not giving them too much work so they have time to be kids, aka, go off and play video games, sports, texting, etc. If kids spent as much time in class here as in Japan, China and other places maybe they might learn more.

Pandora's avatar

Yes, it is the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure many more schools are involved all through-out the US. I have looked time to time at the scores in some of the areas I’ve lived in and was always amazed at how well some of the score were and yet I saw no evidence of this intelligence in the area. Then I would see how some areas seem to not score as well and yet the students would be quite intelligent. I would assume it would be because the scores actually placed were honest scores.

jaytkay's avatar

Not a new story. No Child Left Behind was based on the fraud known as the Houston Miracle. George Bush made the chief perpetrator US Secretary of Education AFTER the scheme was exposed.

No Child Left Behind is designed to shovel public money into private schools. You can’t make money under this scheme if your goal is educating children.

CunningLinguist's avatar

This isn’t even the tip. Things like this have been going on for a long time—there’s even an entire chapter about it in Freakonomics (which was published six years ago and was researched even earlier than that). We’ve heard about this going on in the past, and we’ll hear about it again in the future. I don’t doubt someone in another state will get caught soon, either, as news stories like this often come in waves. But if it leads to a change in how we evaluate schools and teachers, at least there will be a silver lining.

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El_Cadejo's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I never did get that whole paid leave thing. When I was younger there was a teacher in my school who had sex with a student—(the student actually ended up on opera) and when it all came out they suspended her and put her on paid leave. Like really?—

tranquilsea's avatar

The really sad thing is that the fallout in this will be teachers and not the insane conditions they are forced to teach in. Teachers have little autonomy in how they teach a classroom and not a lot of room to deviate from the “script”. Who cares if half the class is sick on test day….they have to take the test anyway.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the higher you push those stakes the more cheating you were going have.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I can’t speak for other areas, but thank goodness Missouri has legalized gambling to provide all that extra casino cash for education. Since then, our educational system has decayed tremendously. But who cares, as schools close, pawn shops are on the rise. What a great tradeoff that turned out to be. The kids might be failing, but we can pacify them with a great deal on a used XBox from some poor family who’s Daddy gambled the house away. I’m so grateful for the insight of our elected officials. They really have their priorities straight.

linguaphile's avatar

@tranquilsea You said, “The higher you push those stakes, the more cheating you were going to have.” I’m not sure if the stakes you are referring to are “tougher tests” or “more consequences.”

The tests really are not tougher than 20 years ago, really. The difference is that 20 years ago educational professionals/policymakers accepted that there would be a bracket of kids that would not do as well- special ed, second language, kids from low SES, kids that didn’t give a hoot. They existed then, and still exist today. NOW, the policymakers want to punish the schools and teachers for the existence of these kids

The scores to determine a failing school are NOT looked at individually, but collectively. So, if you have a high percentage of the low performing bracket, it doesn’t matter if you have excellent teachers who work overtime to catch them up (a’ la Freedom Writers or Stand and Deliver)—it doesn’t matter how good the teachers are in that school, the school fails because of the collective test scores, which most often reflect what happens ¾ of that kid’s day, not ¼ (kids go to school for 6 hrs, not including lunch)

There is no in-class observations performed to evaluate the teachers, ever. It’s all on test scores.

The biggest irony is my son went to an “A” school, and the teachers were the worst I’ve ever seen, but they’ll never be a “F” school because that zone’s SES is sky high and they had no special education program. All their special ed kids were routed to a lower SES school.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@linguaphile Back in the day when I went to grade school you always knew if you didn’t try and do well you got flunked, left behind. That was worse than having seven toes, or a hairy wart on your nose. No one wanted to end up back with the little kids. Today, it seems like order to spare the child embarrassment they just push them along, and hope they can catch up somehow. It is like a video game you play at home as oppose to spending money at the arcade, when you are spending the money you play the game harder and smarter because if you don’t, your money is wasted. Maybe kids today do not sense they have much to lose by slacking off.

linguaphile's avatar

They don’t flunk kids as often as they used to, I agree. I remember kids being held back during my time too and the resulting embarrassment.
I think they stopped holding kids back a good amount of time before the NCLB was passed because some social psychologists did a research showing that kids who are held back are at higher risk of dropping out, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, etc…, so to reduce those risks and to give those kids a better chance, the kids were pushed through. Then NCLB comes along.
They still do hold kids back but it usually is a result of too many missed school days than failing tests. I totally agree—I wish there was a way that today’s kids would see how bad or good they are doing.
My daughter’s school did away with the A, B, C, D, F system—they use “exceeds expectations, meets expectations, developing skill, needs improvement, unsatisfactory.” I’m still not sure what I think of that.

srtlhill's avatar

I keep hearing schools schools schools. It’s individuals that are to blame. The individual teacher who is a cheat to keep their job is at fault. The pressure to succed at keeping scores up should never over power the lesson of truth, honesty and integrity. Many people in this world have lost jobs because they wouldn’t do what a coworker was doing, lie cheat steal. When will the excuses stop and the professionals stand together for what’s right. Enough excuses get the job done right or get another job. If the rules are wrong get the rules changed. Isn’t that the biggest lesson we teach children. Don’t cry about the situation let’s get things changed. I personally agree and am on the professional teachers side, but to just cave in is weak. Let’s fight to give the best education we can to our future leaders, not just numbers on test sheets. Thank you

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@uberbatman “I never did get that whole paid leave thing.”

And now it costs twice as much. Not only do they get paid leave to sit on their ass, but someone else must be hired to do the job they were supposed to do in the first place.

I thought smart people were supposed to work in education. How dumb am I…

linguaphile's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies There are many, many smart people in education and many teachers who have integrity. I would say most teachers are smart and have integrity, like I’m sure many priests never touched little boys and mortgage brokers that didn’t shaft people, but unfortunately the media is going to spotlight the few that make the profession look bad.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

When Catholics rise up in outrage against their internal scandal, then and only then will the stereotyping cease.

When Muslims rise up in outrage against their internal scandal, then and only then will the stereotyping cease.

When Bankers rise up in outrage against their internal scandal, then and only then will the stereotyping cease.

When Teachers rise up in outrage…

linguaphile's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies The sad thing is, it’s not the teachers who are the problem. When you put together all the details of the high stakes testing, how it was set up, how it was pushed through Congress, how it was not funded, how it was propagandized, how the media has made teachers into real morons, how much pressure teachers have to deal with from parents and the admin and how often then they turn around to be judged by people outside the profession. It’s easy to sit on the outside and say “these people should have…”
It’s not the “little people” like teachers and bankers that should get outraged, but everyone, and they should direct it at the right people/system instead of looking for scapegoats at the lower levels.
I should add—I’m a teacher and I’ve never allowed my students to cheat on tests, nor have I cheated for them. I have, however, suffered the consequences of the lower grade teacher cheating—she pads the test scores and it looks bad for me when the kids’ scores drop in my class, and I do not try to reverse their scores. If I tried ‘outrage,’ it would look like I’m trying to cover up my inadequacy.
I still feel teachers are worth defending because it’s not worth leading the good ones to the guillotine to make sure the bad ones are caught. Just my opinion.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

My son is employed by (a particular) State board of education to tutor students on how to improve their SAT and ACT scores. He concentrates on teaching them how to develop good study habits. Anyone with half a brain can see that developing those habits are the responsibility of the students and parents, and not the teachers. You can offer the fruit, but you cannot make them digest it unless they are hungry for it.

His success has lead to a State sponsored web program which will soon offer these tools to a much wider audience. The hope, obviously, is to address one of the many root causes of this issue. Of course, much of the State incentive is based around greater government assistance if it leads to higher scores. But regardless, teachers will have an external tool at their disposal to offer their students a chance at honorable performance beyond the classroom.

I’m pleased you put your principles above your pride @linguaphile. Your example does not go unnoticed. But like all scandal, there will be finger pointing and accusations as those responsible run away like rats from a sinking ship. We can only hope that exposure is the first of many steps to solving this crisis. Once the dust settles, those like you will be there to pick up the pieces. But until then, expect shots to be fired over your bow. It’s just the nature of current culture wanting instant fixes to complicated problems based in deception and disingenuous intentions.

linguaphile's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Agreed :) For my end, I do have some potential good news—there’s a rumor that the teacher who feeds into my classroom (6–8th grade English teacher) won’t be in the same classroom. Word is she’s quitting because we don’t give her enough authority and laudation. A collective finger-cross, please!

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