He said he was fascinated by how nuanced this particular scandal became, how this even harmed the students who were promoted to the next grade without having properly earned it.
Teachers would often focus on “teaching to the test” rather than what they personally thought was best for their students, Slade noted.
“I’m not saying this justified changing answers on a child’s test,” he said. “But you have to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
For instance, Slade noted the massive inequality in the City of Atlanta underpinning the scandal, quoting Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Alan Judd, one of the investigative reporters involved in the coverage of the cheating scandal. Slade noted that most of Atlanta Public Schools are packed with poor, segregated Black kids. And when poor-performing schools close down, developers sometimes swoop in and develop that land, fueling the gentrification of said neighborhood, forcing out many of the poor families, he noted.
“Maybe the cheating isn’t the teachers but the system,” Slade said during the second episode.
Alzo Slade is the host of the new podcast "Cheat!" which opens with the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. SOMETHING ELSE PRODUCTION
Slade relied heavily on Shani Robinson, a teacher who declared her innocence and was one of the handful of teachers who refused to take a plea deal for cheating. She was charged with one year in prison for allegedly changing first-grade test scores. Her case remains on appeal and has been in limbo for six years, making it difficult for her to get a job. “I have PTSD,” she said on the podcast. “It’s been a nightmare. Some of my colleagues are completely broke. They have been taken out of their homes.”
Slade asked: “Did the punishment really fit the crime?”
Over the next 20 episodes, Slade will tackle a London-based stock trader who caused a U.S. market crash, cheating boxers and the world of fake art, to name a few. He also explores former Pres. Donald Trump’s golf cheating and how that type of behavior is indicative of his entire approach to life on much bigger issues.
“What exactly is cheating?” Slade said. “Some cases are more clear cut than others. We also look at it from the perspective of the cheater. Do they invite empathy or not?”