Monday, July 25, 2011

Atlanta Public Schools: Cheaters Do Prosper

Cheaters aren’t supposed to prosper, but for over a decade they did in Atlanta Public Schools. Indeed, for a decade, school children at 44 of 56 Atlanta elementary and middle schools cheated like mad. But here’s the catch, the teachers were the ones doing the cheating. This story is just unbelievably shameful. Let’s discuss.

When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, standardized testing became much more important. Schools where students failed these tests were flagged as failing schools. If these schools did not show yearly improvement, students would be allowed to leave them to find better schools and the failing schools would eventually be closed.

In a too-good-to-be-true moment, Atlanta Public Schools suddenly started making dramatic progress after the passage of this law. A decade later, we know why. According to a report by state investigators, extensive cheating took place at 44 of 56 elementary and middle schools. Specifically, teachers helped students cheat or cheated for them to improve their scores. So far, 178 teachers (including 38 principals) have been implicated by name. Far more were involved, but the allegations against them "could not be established sufficiently to identify [them] by name.”

This cheating was discovered by an analysis of the actual tests taken by the children of these schools. The investigators looked at how often these children would erase wrong answers and change those to correct answers. Apparently, this happened at 20-50 times the state norm. Upon further investigation it was discovered that students were given test answers by teachers, some teachers filled in the answers for the students, some teachers let slower kids sit next to smarter kids and encouraged them to cheat, and some teachers even had “test changing parties” over weekends.

At this point, only 7 of the teachers have resigned. The rest were asked to resign by haven’t. The current superintendent says they won’t be allowed to teach again, but it’s unlikely they will be fired. Instead, they will go on administrative leave. The prior superintendent in charge during this whole period, Beverly L. Hall (pictured), has left the job for a position in Texas. She claims she knew nothing about this, though it seems unlikely that such a vast scandal could have taken place without her knowledge.

So let me ask some questions.

First, how in the world can a collection of people supposedly dedicated to the education of children act so callously to these children’s futures? These kids needed help and rather than educate them, these teachers simply covered up the students’ inadequacies. What’s more, by lying to protect the schools (and their jobs), they deprived these kids of a chance to find better schools and real teachers who might actually care about these kids. That’s criminal.

Secondly, why did this take ten years to be discovered? Why didn’t someone blow the whistle? Surely some students must have told their parents, some teachers must have objected to this, and some administrators must have known. Yet no one said anything? Letting this go on for ten years is so utterly shameful that I am literally disgusted at these people.

Third, where are the teachers unions? It is inconceivable to me that no one from the teachers unions learned of this. Did they turn a blind eye for political reasons or have they too set up a culture where individuals are afraid to come forward? At how many other schools is this happening across the country with the unions remaining silent? This needs to be investigated. Further, if the teachers unions want to protect the reputations of legitimate teachers, then they better get in there and expose these faux-teachers.


Unknown said...

Andrew: I do have to say that Bush addressed at least part of this problem when he talked about "the soft bigotry of low expectations." First, lower the bar, then learn how to cheat to reach even that bar.

And the teachers and administrators are the biggest cheats of all.

Joel Farnham said...

My question is where are the parents?

I also wonder about the local school boards. I had learned that school boards are generally dominated by the unions and it is nigh on impossible to change the style of players( union controlled stooges).

Teachers' Unions said...

Oh ho-ho-ho Andrew. You think our purpose is to help and protect legitimate teachers instead of prostituting ourselves for lots of perks and pensions. That's so cute of you.

Ed said...

Lawhawk, Isn't that the truth. These people clearly assumed nothing could be done to teach these kids and they went about saving their jobs rather than doing their jobs. It's despicable.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think there are two things going on here. First, I think you have people who decided that they were going to save their jobs any way they could. And I don't think they cared at all about the students. I don't know if they thought the students couldn't learn or if they just didn't know how, but they made a conscious decision to save themselves at the expense of the children.

Secondly, I think politics made this easier. I think the teachers unions have so demonized "Bush's" NCLB that they probably didn't lose a moment's sleep cheating it. I doubt they would have done the same if the teacher's unions had no demonized the law.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That's an excellent question. There is no way that NO kids reported this to their parents. So why didn't the parents blow the whistle? Didn't they care that their kids weren't being educated? Didn't they care that the kids' teachers were teaching them to cheat? I'd be furious.

AndrewPrice said...

Dear Teacher's Unions, Sadly, no I don't think that's your purpose. I've learned that your purpose is to protect the worst of the worst and to stand in the way of any change. You've created a hell of a system!

It's time for the private sector's revenge!

AndrewPrice said...

Ed & Lawhawk, I agree. These "teachers" decided that they were better off saving their own butts by cheating than by doing their jobs. And in the process, they failed these kids in a way that will hurt them their whole lives. Nice huh?

CrispyRice said...

This story made me so angry! I'm an ex-teacher and there is simply no excuse for this, no way, no how. At best, a teacher should be working as much as needed to help the students who need or simply want the extra attention. You have a huge responsibility on your hands. At the very least, as a teacher, you ought to think of yourself as role model and try to act in a way you'd like these future young men and women to grow up as.

It's sickening. The lot of them should be fired and never let near a child again.

Joel Farnham said...

Cripsy, you make an excellent point. Could this be considered Child Abuse?

Notawonk said...

silly rabbit, school isn't about learnin' things, it's about the money...

greed is great among these thieves. and we all pay the price, don't we?

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, I agree completely. Teachers have always claimed that they have this heavy responsibility. And I would agree with that. But then I see things like this and it just blows a hole in the idea that teachers are exercising some sacred trust -- especially when you combine it with the way the teachers' unions protect the criminals and perverts. People like this need to be driven from the profession if teachers are ever going to regain their reputations.

In my K-12 times, I met some great teachers, but sadly, I also met some who didn't care at all. Yet, I don't think I ever met any who would just decide to fill out my test sheets for me rather than make me learn something?? This is shocking to me -- especially the scope of this! This wasn't just 3-4 bad eggs... this was the whole system!

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I don't think it could be considered child abuse or neglect as those tend to have distinct legal meanings.... BUT

It is a violation of federal law -- False Claims Act, False Statements Act, because they knowingly submitted false statements to the government with the intent of that facilitating their receipt of money from the federal government. In effect, they lied to get grants and federal education funds.

Those are serious crimes (up to $250,000 fines and 25 years in jail for each instance). But they'll never be charged. Instead, the system will work to cover this up and make it go away -- though the Atlanta Public School system may lose some funding or may lose its certification depending on what the Dept. of Education chooses to do.

CrispyRice said...

Joel, I think so. Let's bring 'em up on charges!

Andrew, you're right. In "olden" times when a teacher didn't care, they just didn't care. These teachers knew that wasn't going to work anymore because now finally (after decades) their jobs were on the line. So what's easier, perform or cheat? UGH!

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, Well said, as these were thieves who took their salaries under false pretenses and turned out ten years worth of kids with limited futures. Lovely.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, That's exactly what it was -- the path of least resistance. And as you noted above, these people were horrible role models.

T-Rav said...

In all fairness, NCLB has been a pretty God-awful system. The unions neglect to mention that 95 percent of it was a Democratic plan, though.

But you know what the really awful education story is? Wisconsin. There, the evil Governor Walker (or "Hitler," as those truly enlightened to the teachers' plight like to call him), has stopped at nothing to manipulate and win over public school teachers through legislation that saved their jobs--27 in one district alone. But at what cost, you might ask? Oh, plenty--they must now teach...wait for it...SIX classes a day, rather than five! And contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions! The horror! THE HORROR!!!

(I must have had sugar this afternoon.)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Ironically, I just finished re-reading "Heart of Darkness" yesterday! :-)

You make great points. First, there is no doubt that NCLB caused a lot of problems. BUT it was half created by Ted Kennedy and it was premised on the fallacy that more money would mean better schools -- the union fallacy. In fact, unions were all for it, except for the accountability part -- which is the only part they continue talking about.

Also, it's amazing what for great role models the teachers are becoming in places like Wisconsin. Striking... calling the governor Hitler... telling kids that having to teach one extra period a day is the end of the world and a reason that taxpayers (who earn less money than they do) should continue to slave away.

I'll tell you, if the school systems were a company I owned, I would fire the lot of them and start over with people who hadn't festered in the system.

You're not planning to teach K-12 when you finish are you?

AndrewPrice said...

FYI, In case anyone missed it, The Great and Powerful Obama will speak tonight.

Interestingly, CNBC is reporting that he will support a plan that does not raise taxes. I'd like to see the Republicans seize this one.

I'll try to cover that in the morning, so you don't have to listen to the 'bamster.

T-Rav said...

Wow, didn't know I was channeling Joseph Conrad. Hmmm.

Anyway, of course union reps are telling the media what a hardship it in fact is to teach six rather than five class periods a day. That's bullcrap, especially when they also hold on to two prep periods per day. The teachers at my high school had six and one, respectively. Anyway, I bet a lot of them care more that they're keeping their jobs. If they don't, then they shouldn't be there at all.

As for any future involvement by myself, probably not. I'm aiming for a college position, and if I had to lower my expectations to K-12, it would only be a private high school, one with relatively high standards. Anyway, I may not have a choice--I've found most schools won't consider you for a position (not in this economic climate, at any rate) if you have a Ph.D. They have to be paid much more than simple B.A.'s or M.A.'s. In fact, a few states explicitly prohibit their public schools from hiring Ph.D.'s. So that's probably a no.

T-Rav said...

And I don't care how many of you don't want to be subjected to the Teleprompter-in-Chief's preening, I'm not recapping the press conference again. Not unless someone pays for my antipsychotic meds.

AndrewPrice said...


Wow, they actually prohibit schools from hiring PhD people? That's insane! I guess they want to make sure they don't have anyone who knows too much.

** rolls eyes **

In any event, good luck with your professorship. Then we can call you Prof-Rav! :-)

I totally agree about the six period thing. MOST Americans work a heck of a lot longer and harder than that and get paid less. The idea that somehow it's a hardship to turn an hour break into an hour work is just insane -- especially when we're told that teachers teach because they like kids. I guess they just don't like them enough to actually want to teach them anything?

Unions really have become a blight on this country.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'll recap in advance:

"I am great.... you are not. Republicans are children.... they are boogers.... and they have koodies. But I am great. And I am an adult. And I have a plan, which isn't really mine, but I will claim credit for it. My plan is to do something to fix whatever it is my advisors were talking about. So let's follow my plan you babies and get this sucker on the road. Come on, eat some broccoli you beatches.... I am mature. Thank you. Oh, and you are only giving me grief because I'm black.... not because I'm an idiot." *

That sums it up. I'll cover the rest in the morning. So go ahead and take the night off... save your pills for election season. :-)

* 517 "uh"s removed for brevity.

Unknown said...

Ed: Despicable is the perfect word. I've rarely seen such cynicism, and it's becoming part of the common culture. They should hang their heads in shame. Instead, they'll get indignant because they got caught.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, thanks for both the well-wishing and the recapping! (Though I think you forgot a couple of "corporate jet owners," a "Let me be clear" and some kind of reference to eating peas.)

I don't know how many states actually ban the hiring; either way it's extremely difficult right now to get hired because Ph.D.'s inevitably get higher salaries, so the budget won't allow it. (I'd gladly volunteer to work for less, but even more bizarrely, many schools actually have the salary thing written into their rules. Don't ask why; I certainly can't tell you.) I could probably teach high school with my M.A. right now if I wanted to; but I'm holding off for something with more money and less involvement with unions. Although, I guess at the college level I'd have to put up with a lot of left-wing professors. Again. (sigh)

Anyway, if the teachers at my school could teach six periods a day for 30 grand a year, I think the poor WI folks can manage.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk & Ed, Sadly, it is becoming part of our culture and that's too bad. It used to be that when someone got caught doing something immoral like this, they would resign and disappear from public. These days, people lie about it, try to excuse it, and then go on television to weep over it.

Tennessee Jed said...

Late to the party, but a very nice post on a story which I had heard about. Of course, the lame streams wanted a one cycle and done for this one.

You asked a series of three questions, and yes they were sort of rhetorical. Answer to first question was protecting their own jobs. Answers to two and three: see number one's answer.

Nary an editorial have I seen, but I am surprised I haven't seen a flurry of "it was all Bush's fault and his damned standardized test which favor rich, priviledged white Republican children. Teacher's unions don't want anyone but their own foxes watching the henhouse.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Maybe they're just not made tough enough in Wisconsin? In fact, if push comes to shove, my money would easily be on Mississippi to take out Wisconsin in a fight.

On the PhD, you could always tell them it's fake, e.g. that you got it at a clown college? ;-)

Yeah, there will probably be some of that too.... "let me be clear.... those who would oppose peas.... extremists.... blah blah blah.... um.... uh.... let me be peas...."

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Thanks! I don't think they can blame Bush because that requires them admitting that the teachers did something wrong, which goes against the MSM's First Commandment... "thou shallt not give any proof of wrong by leftists."

That said, it's amazing that this story isn't getting more traction! This is exactly the kind of thing "investigative journalists" are supposed to uncover and expose to the public... not turn a blind eye to.

You'd think that at least their instincts would make them mention it. I guess that's naive though.

DUQ said...

Shameless is right. Could you imagine going home and telling your kids:

Teacher: "Guess what I did at work today? I cheated to make it look like some dumb kids passed a test so I can keep my job."

Child: "Gee, mommy/daddy, why didn't you just teach them enough so they could pass the test?"

Teacher: Blank stare. "Uh, because George Bush is evil dear."

Child: "Did he stop you from teaching these kids?"

Teacher: "No, but he's evil. He wanted to take away my job."

Child: "But why didn't you help the kids?"

Teacher: "Go to your room. Some day you'll understand."

Joel Farnham said...


My imagination is more about what happens when a child comes home after a day of cheating at school.

Child: Hi, mommy!

Mom: Hi, what did you learn at school today?

Child: I learned to cheat on tests. It's really easy!

Mom: Really?! Which kid showed you how?

Child: The teacher taught us!

Mom: The teacher?

Child: Yes. The teacher showed us how. She said she was doing it because BUSH threatened to send us home if we didn't do it. She is doing it to keep us in school.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Yeah, for most people, that would be pretty embarrassing. But apparently not for enough people. I'm even more amazed by the idea of "test changing parties," which means these people knew about each other and did this together.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I'm sure that MUST have happened. Sadly, the parents apparently said, "oh well."

Koshcat said...

I'm hoping this won't die especially since it was in WSJ. Others also harmed were the teachers who didn't cheat. How many inappropriately lost their job? Missed out of a promotion? Missed a bonus? Where are the slimy lawyers (not fine upstanding types like you or lawhawk, but real annoying, nasty fellows not afraid to be called slimy like David Lane in Denver)?

AndrewPrice said...

Koskat, Excellent point, I hadn't even considered that, but these teachers managed to keep their jobs and get promoted to vice principal or principal by cheating. And that means that others got cheated out of jobs they deserved. This thing is just wrong all around.

Writer X said...

This is despicable. Yet we should pour more money into Education??

On a side note, there was an interesting article in the Arizona Republic on Sunday. There was a profile of a charter school in south Phoenix (a rough part of town) that was doing amazingly well both in student attendance, parent participation, and student grades and test scores. A couple of "innovative" profiled about the school were:

1) Kids were expected to be on time for class each day.
2) Kids were required to stand whenever a teacher entered a room and address that teacher respectively.
3) Kids wore uniforms.
4) Parent involvement was required.
5) Teachers set high expectations for each student.

This particular news article raved about the school, talking about it as being innovative and revolutionary. The school is exceeding expecations. My question was this: When did #1-5above become innovative and revolutionary?? How have we let public schools (like those in Atlanta) become such a crock of boiling crap?

Once again, the more involvement from government and unions, the worse the learning/schools become.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I agree completely -- none of this stuff is innovative or revolutionary outside the messed-up world of education. They really have been immune from common sense for far too long if they think this is such a new idea.

I think schools are finally tending back toward these kinds of things because parents are starting to realize the value of getting their kids educated and they are demanding results, AND schools can no longer ignore those demands because parents now have options like private schools and charter schools.

Of course, teachers like these in Atlanta are doing everything they can to stop any sort of improvement, but they will ultimately fail.

StanH said...

As a Georgian I can’t say how proud I am. These are inner city schools whose culture, cultivates criminality, and cheating as a legitimate survival technique. That’s why you heard nothing from the parents, they agree. One part of this that is missing, in Georgia, we have “The Hope Scholarship.” This allows kids who had a 3.0 grade point average (they’ve since moved it to 3.5) a full load at a state university/college. We’ve littered our colleges and universities with substandard students who can make it, and flunk out leaving our state with millions more in bad debt. You can be certain, that attempts to collect this money will fall by the wayside with screams of racism, it’s already started. The late NY Senator Patrick Moynihan (D) coined the phrase, “defining deviancy down,” well hallelujah brother we’ve arrived. This scandal perfectly illustrates his point.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, That would explain the parent's silence. To me, this is just shocking. When I was in school, any hint of cheating pretty much brought everyone down on you -- other students, parents, teachers, even friends. It simply was not acceptable.

But then, as you note, this is exactly what Moynihan was warning everyone about. Sadly, the Democratic Party choose to ignore him and look at the damage they've caused in the inner cities and rural poor areas.

And you're right, they will scream racism the moment anyone tries to fix this.

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