America’s children are in serious trouble when it comes to public education in low-income communities. All over America, more and more schools would rather cheat on standardized testing than suffer the consequences of the truth that many of their students are seriously struggling. The widespread corruption in many public school systems that predominantly serve children of color is no less than a national crisis. It seems that many public educators, like politicians, are making decisions that serve their career advancement rather than make tough decisions that serve the education needs of children.
For example, in Atlanta on April 2, 2013, Beverly Hall, former superintendent for the city’s public schools turned herself in after being indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal. In addition, 26 other educators had surrendered to authorities with a bond set for some Atlanta educators at $1 million. In total, 35 educators were indicted, accused of cheating on standardized testing dating back to 2001.
According to CNN,
About 180 teachers were implicated initially. Cheating is believed to date back to early 2001, when standardized testing scores began to turn around in the 50,000-student school district, according to the indictment. For at least four years, between 2005 and 2009, test answers were altered, fabricated and falsely certified, the indictment said. “We’ve had cheating all up and down the line. It was absolutely amazing,” said Michael Bowers, a former Georgia attorney general who investigated the cheating scandal.
A few years ago, Walter H. Annenberg, Professor of Education Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Steven D. Levitt, the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, conducted a study demonstrating that Chicago Public Schools are likely cheating when administering standardized testing. The researchers noted unusual gains in performance during the season of high-stakes testing followed by steep declines in performance when students were retested. Jacob and Levitt conclude that the Federal Government introduced perverse incentives that encouraged cheating. “With the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the incentives for teachers and administrators to manipulate the results from high-stakes tests will only grow, especially as schools begin to feel the consequences of low scores,” Jacob and Levitt observe. What the scholars found in Chicago then was not surprising:
Cheating by school personnel increased following the introduction of high-stakes testing, particularly in the lowest-performing classrooms. For example, the likelihood of cheating in a classroom that was one standard deviation below the mean increased by roughly 29 percent in response to the school probation policy and 43 percent due to the ending of social promotion.
In fact, there is much discussion now that the Federal guidelines are not just corrupting Chicago, but school districts throughout the nation.
In Woodbridge, NJ, two elementary school principals and three teachers were suspended last summer after state investigators concluded they cheated or encouraged third-graders to cheat on state standardized tests.
The educators’ conduct was uncovered in the state’s “erasure analysis” of 2010 and 2011 NJ-ASK tests, in which investigators look for unusually high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures. Investigators also received anonymous letters and phone calls about possible testing breaches at Middlesex County schools, officials said. Dozens of staff members and students were interviewed by the state Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance, officials said.
In Philadelphia, investigations into a massive cheating scandal have resulted in two administrators surrendering their credentials in lieu of disciplinary action by the state of Pennsylvania. They are Barbara McCreery, the former principal of Communications Tech High School and this years principal of Bok Technical High School, and Lola Marie O’Rourke, former principal of Locke Elementary. Both have confessed to cheating. According to news sources, citywide in Philadelphia 53 district schools and three charters remain under scrutiny for possible cheating beginning with state tests administered in 2009, according to reports.
The list of cheating, corrupt, and scandalous public school districts goes on and on. What is most unfortunate is that those that have the most to lose, in a system where teachers and administrators cheat to save their own careers, have the least power to institute change. This may explain why more and more African Americans are protesting with their feet and are now homeschooling their children. Because we know that failing schools—compounded by despair, broken families, government dependence, poverty, and deficient moral formation—is the pathway to prison, we may need to take radical steps to rethink how we educate our children, and find ways that structurally and financially empower parents to have absolute freedom to make the best decision for their children without education bureaucrats or the education unions undermining their choices.