Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Atlanta: Biggest Cheating Scandal in U.S. History

While the public's attention was riveted on the Casey Anthony trial and legislators fighting about the debt ceiling, bloggers following education reform lit up with breaking news all day.

The two year investigation of test cheating concluded pointing culpability directly at Atlanta school district teachers, administrators, and senior officials.
The 55,000-student Atlanta public school system rose in national prominence during the 2000s, as test scores steadily rose and the district received notice and funding from the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation. But behind that rise, the state found, were teachers and principals in 44 schools erasing and changing test answers. [bold added]

One of the most troubling aspects of the Atlanta cheating scandal, says the report, is that the district repeatedly refused to properly investigate or take responsibility for the cheating. Moreover, the central office told some principals not to cooperate with investigators. In one case, an administrator instructed employees to tell investigators to "go to hell." When teachers tried to alert authorities, they were labeled "disgruntled." One principal opened an ethics investigation against a whistle-blower.

Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Maureen Downey points to proving that "the faith of the Broad and Gates Foundations and the Chamber of Commerce in the district was not misplaced and that APS could rewrite the script of urban education in America and provide a happy, or at least a happier, ending for its students."

"And that’s what ought to alarm us," adds Ms. Downey, "that these professionals ultimately felt their students could not even pass basic competency tests, despite targeted school improvement plans, proven reforms, and state-of-the-art teacher training."

Will these findings open an honest, fact-based debate on the way costly high-stakes assessment under NCLB and under Race to the Top proposals, have neither achieved accountability, nor affected student achievement? Who benefits from these misguided initiatives?

Read the full Christian Science Monitor article here.

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