The Atlanta Journal Constitution broke the story of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) cheating scandal in 2009. It was thusly investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and it turned out to be a systemic problem in 44 APS schools. This resulted in an unprecedented 35 educators being indicted. After the indictments, two educators died and then about 20 plead guilty. Finally, 12 went to trial and all but one was found guilty.
This story is much bigger than just the cheating scandal because you have to look at the pressure and environment that created it. Is it really the about the teachers cheating or are we cheating the children? This non-ending system of testing, coupled with Common Core where teachers can’t even make their own curriculum, hasn’t resulted in better educated students. At some point we must stop and ask ourselves what it is we are doing and are we achieving our goals.
In the US, 76.6 million students are enrolled in the education system, Kindergarten through grad school. We spend $500 billion on primary and secondary education alone. We have the highest high school graduation rate in history but …
One-third of 8th grade students are not proficient in math, science and reading;
More than a quarter of graduating students fall short of college readiness benchmarks set by the ACT;
and 3 million kids between 16-24 drop out of high school every year. (The significance of a statistic like that is how it correlates to crime; 75% of crimes committed every year are committed by high school dropouts.)
When we are spending this much money, and our scores are not going up, somebody has to ask if its really working. Is our education system actually educating students?
The silence on the part of the Secretary of Education and the political leaders is deafening when it comes to the APS cheating. Where’s the moral integrity of those in the field of education? Where’s the honest debate about the state of our education system?
What are we going to do with our laws and the educational policies like Common Core that are currently in place? Are we allowing ourselves to be held hostage to teachers unions or administrators that may not have our children’s best interests in mind?
And even broader, are we willing to engage in the hard conversations about the things that really impact our children including the breakdown of the family unit and its effect on children’s learning? These are serious issues that are much bigger than just a couple of teachers cheating.