One of the saddest stories in education right now is the Atlanta cheating scandal. A grand jury has indicted the former award-winning superintendent of the Atlanta public schools and 35 teachers and school administrators for falsifying student test scores over a period of years. What’s truly disgraceful about this scandal is the fact that because of the alleged cheating by the people responsible for education, the students were led to believe that they knew material they actually did not know, and their schools did not receive grants they might have otherwise received to help improve instruction. Instead, the superintendent and some of the others received big bonuses for appearing to do better than reality.
Cheating on high-stakes tests is not just Atlanta’s problem. Here in the District of Columbia, the questions about cheating on the test scores of students in the D.C. Public Schools remain of great concern.
Washington Post Columnist Eugene Robinson points out that the cheating scandals in Atlanta, DC and elsewhere are symptoms of a much larger problem with the school reform movement and the value is places on tests at the expense of other forms of instruction and assessment. His colleague Valerie Strauss has long decried the bankruptcy of the test-driven mania of school reform.
Bill Gates, whose foundation has done more to disrupt education (and not always in a good way) than almost any other force (including the federal government) now seems to be backing away from high-stakes testing as the primary means of evaluating teachers. Too late for the Atlanta teachers whose careers are ruined and lives thrown into chaos because they succumbed to the temptation to cheat.
Students at Trinity sometimes wonder why we place so much emphasis on our Honor Code, why we are so stern about academic honesty, why we have such stiff penalties for cheating and plagiarism. Every student and faculty member should read the Atlanta stories. The consequences of dishonorable conduct are enormous. The cost of cheating in the ruined lives of the teachers and their families is incalculable. The consequences for the students are equally tragic.
I will be writing more on this topic and I welcome comments on the cheating scandals in Atlanta, DC and elsewhere, the role of high stakes testing and the errant ways of the school reform movement. Enter comments by clicking the link below, or send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if I can quote you.