Updated: 6:18 p.m. Friday, March 30, 2012 | Posted: 6:17 p.m. Friday, March 30, 2012
Suspicious test scores across U.S.: Shred school falsehoods
The AJC has revealed cheating our schoolchildren may be a nationwide nightmare. Now parents and taxpayers everywhere should heed Atlanta’s painful lesson and demand full investigations.
By AJC Editorial Board
“We trust the media and public will focus on the main findings of the report that there is no orchestrated cheating in Atlanta Public Schools.”
— Beverly Hall, August 2010, summing up an investigation solicited by the district.
Atlantans know what came next, after truth’s chisel crumbled walls of denial.
Scores of communities from Maine to California may find themselves enduring a similarly traumatic experience, based on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Cheating our children” series, which found that test scores in nearly 200 school districts resemble those that drew Atlanta into the biggest cheating scandal in American history.
Thus, national attention has once again turned toward Atlanta. Unlike when the cheating scandal first surfaced, Atlanta can now provide an instructive example of how to address a civic tragedy.
Gutsy elected and public officials here dealt forthrightly with the matter against significant resistance. That led to a recovery that is ongoing, but real. We’re getting through it.
That would not have happened had leaders here caved in to considerable pressure to ignore the growing field of red flags that waved before them. What played out here was a textbook strategy of blaming the messenger (your newspaper in this case) and attempting to defuse critical inquiry into just what really happened at too many Atlanta public schools.
That should not occur within the school districts cited in the AJC’s latest work. Parents and taxpayers should demand full, thorough investigations and accounting. They should not be distracted by campaigns to shift the focus to straw man debates over methodology, demographics or anything else but a full-bore pursuit of the truth.
We hope our reporting will help inform the national discussion over education policy that relies so heavily on standardized tests. Focusing so fiercely on one end result has surely helped fuel nefarious means to achieve that end.
Our children could benefit from such a national discussion. Their future — and ours, really — demands no less. Our public school kids deserve a functional educational model that accurately measures achievement and adjusts instruction to address problems found. That can’t happen if cheating is commonplace.
The AJC’s analysis across 3,125 of the nation’s largest school districts does not conclusively prove cheating. That’s a job for those invested with legal authority.
But such investigations aren’t likely to happen if officials elsewhere are too cowed by political pressure, or jaded by ingrained school problems, to call for real inquiries into testing anomalies.
Georgia showed how to make that happen. Gov. Sonny Perdue, angered by persistent stonewalling, appointed special investigators to get after the truth. After this Editorial Board suggested bringing in the GBI if needed, Perdue took that extraordinary step. It was a wise call, as things turned out.
The resulting cheating report decisively put to rest multiple attempts to whitewash the scandal. Investigators wrote that, “Without question, cheating occurred in APS on the CRCT in 2009 and previous years. The erasure analysis is no longer a mere red flag, but is supported by confessions and other evidence of cheating in 78.6 percent of the elementary and middle schools we investigated.”
That led to cleanup efforts, which continue today. APS, under no-nonsense Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr., is methodically carrying out personnel tribunals for the remaining of nearly 180 educators or staff implicated. Extra tutoring is being offered to all underperforming students .
School districts large and small can study the example Atlanta has set. They should each test the simple, yet profound thesis question first raised by the AJC: “Are these results valid?”
More importantly, were our children cheated? If proven true, that is the real tragedy, here or anyplace else.
Members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s disaster relief organization began making plans Tuesday at the group’s North American Mission Board office in Alpharetta to send volunteers and supplies to areas of Oklahoma hit hard by Monday’s devastating tornadoes.