Cheating Scandal In Atlanta

There's a new report out showing evidence of fairly widespread cheating in Atlanta public schools -- see below -- which makes me wonder whether any kind of systematic cheating could happen here.  I mean, beyond a classroom or grade level or school.  Take a look at some of the news stories about the Atlanta situation and let us know what you think (or know).

Investigation into APS finds unethical behavior AJC:  In the report, the governor’s special investigators describe an enterprise where unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior pierced every level of the bureaucracy.

Dozens of Atlanta educators falsified tests, state report confirms CNN: Dozens of Atlanta public school educators falsified standardized tests or failed to address such misconduct in their schools, Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday.

Systematic Cheating Is Found in Atlanta’s School System NYT:  Some 12,000 students whose tests might have been tampered with have attended remedial classes after school and on weekends.

Probe Finds Systematic Cheating In Atlanta Schools NPR:  Dozens of principals, educators and others are implicated in the scandal. Deal says he intends to turn over his findings to prosecutors.

Atlanta superintendent knew about cheating AP:  Former Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall knew about cheating allegations on standardized tests but either ignored them or tried to hide them, according to a state investigation.

Keep in mind that the state and the district have long been enmeshed in a power struggle over the control of the school system, and that politics and race may play a part in the report and the coverage of the allegations.


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  • What can you say but that the situation in Atlanta is a nightmare in relation to how far up the food chain the test cheating story goes. I guess I could dance on the graves of the data/ test driven school reform approach supported by the Atlanta business community, the Gates, and Broad Foundation. But frankly I find the scope of this story to be depressing. Clearly if it could happen in Atlanta it could happen in Chicago.

    In fact a major fiasco like Atlanta is really possible here too, and in part it is possible because much of the media here in Chicago wants to cheer on school reform and play up positive results which seem in some cases improbable without question. As in Atlanta Chicago's business community has bought into much of test driven school reform and many very level headed business men and women buy into claims of success of schools, traditional and charter alike without much question. It is highly unlikely that if they were investing millions in a startup company they would accept claims without a pretty careful review of balance sheets.

    The lesson from Atlanta to Chicago is not every or even the majority of poor urban children will be amazingly successful and graduate from college in most of our life times and we should not pretend that is going to happen. What we are doing is creating illusions instead of hope for the future. Expectations for our children in Chicago need to be high but realistic. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article describes cheating was driven by targets established for schools and the district. What do we all think will happen here if we get pay for performance linked to test score improvement? Isn't it possible that both teachers and administrators will in some cases be driven to cheat to get financial incentives, I think so.

    We also have the experience in America of corporations pushing it to make profit expectations to the detriment in some cases of the long term health the firm because of how CEO and executive contracts are written. There are many, many mine fields out there.

    Rod Estvan

  • I think this situation occurs when results become more important than actual learning. There is no quick fix. It is easy to issue mandates for improvement but much harder to provide the right conditions and support for that to happen. The problem, however, is not the test. The problem is how the test is used. When assessment is used for diagnosis, continuous improvement as well as accountability it is very very useful. When it is used only to punish people it is useless because when fear becomes the rule you have created the conditions by which cheating will happen. This used to happen in Central Office PM sessions all the time. People would manipulate the data to get to the result everyone wanted so you would not be fired versus using data to actually diagnose and solve problems.

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