The widespread cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public School (“APS”) system that was initially reported on by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over two years ago came to a head last week when the Governor released a report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation which detailed the extent of the scandal. The report named 178 educators who were part of a widespread conspiracy to erase and change test answers on high-stakes standardized tests.
The scandal tarnishes the image of recently departed and widely celebrated Superintendent Beverly Hall, who made headlines for the impressive (and apparently fraudulent) gains in test scores made by the district over the previous dozen years. Her “successes” resulted in additional funding from the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation, and ultimately in her being named the US Superintendent of the Year in 2009. And while she hasn’t yet been implicated in the scandal, it is almost certain that Hall is in some way culpable considering that 38 of the 178 educators were principals and that the scandal touched at least 44 of the 56 schools in the district.
For those who haven’t yet accepted that government organizations are always working to expand their power through coercion, without concern for the welfare of the people they are supposed to be serving, the details of the scandal may be surprising. Teachers and administrators at the various schools would erase wrong answers and replace them with correct ones. The practice evolved so much that testing coordinators would hand out answer-key transparencies that educators could place over the answer sheets so that they could more quickly identify the wrong answers. But more worrisome than the actual cheating was the culture that pervaded the APS during the scandal. Dr. Hall’s administration repeatedly refused to investigate cheating allegations, deliberately thwarted external investigation efforts, destroyed relevant documents related to the tests, and punished whistle-blowers who raised concerns about the rampant cheating in the district. According to another teacher, APS was “run like the mob”.
The takeaway from this story should not be that the Atlanta Public School system is unduly evil, though its administration is. The takeaway should be that public schooling everywhere is a fraud imposed on the people for the benefit of select adults, not children. Not all school districts cheat on standardized tests, but virtually all sacrifice education for the sake of testing. Success on these standardized tests help administrators like Dr. Hall advance their careers, and teachers secure their jobs, but it does not help the children. When educators focus on test scores that will impress bureaucrats, they are not focusing on the individual learning needs of children, and they are not implementing programs which will help those children reach their full potential. Public schools don’t exist for the sake of the children; they exist for the sake of the adults within the system. Such a system can never effectively educate children because the focus will never be on educating children.
Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level
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