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Cheat Codes

I remember once in the 5th grade, my teacher Mrs. Bradley, admonished two students caught cheating on a test. To prove her point that a person cheating only cheats himself, she made an example of the two students by having them each come up to the blackboard and work out several 2 by 3 digit multiplication problems in front of the entire class. It was clear the math was beyond their comprehension and the class laughed as they fumbled and fumed over the problems. But Mrs. Bradley’s point became explicitly clear – cheating your way around a problem doesn’t solve the problem, in fact it compounds it.

It would appear that long gone are the days of committed educators like Mrs. Bradley and her passion for not just educating students, but enlightening them. Especially in the Atlanta Public School system. A recent news story  dubs the ongoing scandal with testing fraud in Atlanta as “America’s biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal”. In a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report issued earlier this week, 178 teachers and principals were implicated (82 of them have already confessed) in widespread cheating. The report states that administrators and teachers in more 44 schools changed student answers on standardized tests. It also furthers that in many cases, the guilty parties and school district officials used threatening tactics against whistle-blowers and disrupted investigations.  The report blemishes the 12-year tenure of Superintendent Beverly Hall, who was named US Superintendent of the Year in 2009 largely because of the school system’s reported gains – especially in inner-city schools. She has not been directly implicated, but investigators said she likely knew, or should have known, what was going on. In her farewell address to teachers in June, Hall for the first time acknowledged wrongdoing in the district, but blamed other administrators.

As standardized testing becomes the measure of educator and school performance, directly linked to to funding and federal assistance, pressure mounts on school districts, administrators and educators to deliver favorable numbers when reporting. Currently there is a national epidemic of systemic cheating and alterations of test results- Atlanta’s investigations and subsequent findings are merely the bubble on the surface of failing system.

The greatest tragedy in all of this are the students who are being cheated. Testing results say one thing, but overall performance indicates something altogether different. Again Mrs. Bradley’s lesson is made crystal clear. Sadly in this scenario the weight of the truth about these horrific findings falls on the shoulders of the children and families whose faith was placed in the hands of their public schools to provide a quality education.

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