Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal: Business As Usual

The verdict for the APS (Atlanta Public Schools) Cheating Scandal has come in as guilty (let that sink in for a second while I go off course just to get right back on track).

All of this media coverage, outrage, and even hand clapping is happening in the midst of “test taking season” in Georgia. Being a Georgian teacher, I have to get my students mentally prepared. I have to make sure that they are going to be on their best behavior. I also have to “ensure” that they do what they should do at home. In short, I have to play Merlin to a bunch of Jacks for the sake of taking the Common Core test in Georgia.

Thus far, all I can think about are those teachers, administrators, and education related individuals caught up in the APS scandal. Unless you live under an Olmec sized boulder, these people were found guilty. Part of me didn’t care because – hell – they shouldn’t have been cheating. Another part of me, however, disliked the situation that they were put in. A lot of thoughts weighed heavily on my conscious as I read the guilty verdict.

Atlanta Public School

The 11 of the 12 out of ALL those singled out in this situation were found guilty of racketeering.

Wait a minute.

Many were found guilty of other things as well (false statements, theft, etc.). But the big charge that the majority of them were found guilty of were for racketeering.


RICO Laws. As in Mobster-organized-crime type of ruling against teachers that helped kids cheat on a test. I’m not sure what I should be impressed by more: the fact that they were found guilty or the fact that the charges went THAT far. Yet, they actually did make it that far. Even further, the guilty parties were escorted out in handcuffs. You know, like the Mob bosses that they were.

Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal Responsibility

By the responses that I have seen from Facebook and people I have talked to, there is a dividing line. There are those that feel the verdict was way too strong for a case that actually didn’t harm people directly. And then there are those that felt these people deserved their fates. They feel that these people knew there would be consequences for their incorrect actions. Thus, there seems to be a split between “the punishment is too harsh” and “screw them because they did it to themselves”.

APS cheating scandal 1

All in all, we all agree that what they did was wrong. Hell, the entire situation was just off putting. Beverly Hall playing her overreaching role in the scandal was the most offputting thing about it all. There was even word that people destroyed documents. Plus, the emails that were sent out was just too much. This was just a situation that lent itself for punishment.

But how much punishment should have been doled out? That I can’t honestly say. What I can say is that these teachers caught a raw deal.

Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal and the Reality of Testing

Being a teacher, I just want to confirm with some people about their worst suspicions: basing teacher progress through standardized testing is pure bullshit.

There, I said it. You can sit and spin on it or you can accept it.

Think about things from a realistic standpoint (at least for 10 minutes). As a teacher, you start out the year and make your “goals” become addressed to whomever they need to be addressed to. You work every day to ensure that the students learn something. You construct lesson plans that actually try to tap all the different learning styles. You make sure that the students are adept to being computer literate while actually able to do something with their bare hands. Let’s face it: you are actually teaching.

Still, that does not explain the rest of your responsibilities. You have to gather testing data within reviewing standards through common assessments. As a teacher, you are responsible for analyzing this testing data (along with other measures like old CRCT scores,Renaissance Learning measures, Lexile scores, and what have you) to see where you can take this student. From there, you have to come up with an action plan to take your “lower achievers” and “bubble students” (those that could either easily pass or fail depending on the way the wind blows) over the hurdles of it all. So, it is easy to see that a teacher has a lot on their plate.

All that I explained did not even take in account the everyday responsibilities not dealing with learning or testing. Your day may be filled with being responsible for classroom management, communication with parents, and even getting materials ready for IEP and SST meetings. And then there is the concern for extracurricular clubs that plenty of teachers lead (sports teams, science club, whatever). All of this happens over a course of a school year.

And all of that effort shall be mainly measured through the success, and progress, of a test. Just one test. A teacher shall be looked at as Simba or Scar due to that one test score.

YOUR efforts all balled up into one test. If anyone doesn’t see the issue with this, then please click on the links elsewhere on my site and read something else. If you get what I am saying, then keep reading.

Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal in Its Rawest Form

I doubt I will be the first to say this and I hope I am not the last. But, it needs to be said again: these education affiliated workers are getting the raw end of a tough deal.

Similar to what I mentioned before, basing teacher/school progress through testing is crap. But the main reason I feel this way is because testing, within itself, is crap.

I could go on for days about how I feel about the tests themselves. I could mention that they don’t measure important aspects of learning (examples: initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, effort, irony, etc.). I could also mention that the tests have narrow expectations that amount to too much focus on a teacher’s efforts. I could even mention how these tests don’t measure HOW they found the answer (information loss). Let me remind you that I could thoroughly make testing look rather silly with some typing and references.

APS cheating scandal 2

But I’m not going that route. I will keep things simple: tests are crap because we aren’t a testing nation. Let’s get off of our moral high horse for a second: what is the true meaning to passing a test in reference to someone’s true ability. Does passing the test predict that the student will be a hard worker? Does it predict the next presidential candidate or CEO of a company? Does testing measure a student’s hopes, dreams, aspirations, and desires? If it does none of this, then how can anyone convince me they are that important?

Then again, that isn’t even the biggest thing I noticed. A similar situation happened inDougherty County in Georgia right after the APS Cheating Scandal:

A new investigative report details a second major standardized test cheating scandal in a Georgia school system, implicating 49 educators, including 11 principals. A key reason for the “disgraceful” cheating, investigators said, was pressure to meet No Child Left Behind requirements.

The probe (see here and here) by the Georgia governor’s Special Investigators team into cheating in the Dougherty County School System concluded that “hundreds of school children were harmed by extensive cheating.” [1]

This is an interesting development since a lot of media foolishness followed the APS Cheating Scandal. Let it be fair: Fair Test found that over 30 states had cheating scandals between 2008 to 2011 [2]. So, are we really confident about all this attention toward testing?

APS Cheating Scandal Epilogue

We need to understand that the APS Cheating Scandal was business as usual. The tests were administered, the educational professionals helped cheated, and everyone lost. The teachers lost, the children lost, and education lost. People think that Atlanta won but how could they? Unless the high stakes of testing is eliminated, there will be no winners. In fact, all you will see is more losing unless your name is McGraw Hill or Pearson.

Of course, I’m not sure they will be given RICO charges like they are akin to Tony Soprano.