Originally 35 people were indicted. Of those 35 educators, 12 went to trial and 11 were found guilty. Of the 11 that were found guilty, 3 were teachers. The rest were administrators at the school and district level. Now what is interesting, more than 178 originally were implicated when the story first broke back in July 2011. After nearly 4 years, it seems like a resolution has been given. Many have had their license temporarily or permanently suspended and some are going to face up to 20 years in prison. With that being said, we must look at this situation even deeper.
I found a lot of people wanted to know my opinion of the whole Atlanta Cheating Scandal especially since I am an educator. However, I found that many people also had their own opinion. I have heard, "The teachers need to get everything that is coming to them" to "We need to have sympathy on them." I have heard people say they should have not cheated and none of this would have happened. I have heard some say "Never let these people ever step foot in a classroom again." With all of this, I do not think I have full said how I feel about this topic.
Back in July, I wrote a blog piece based on an article from the perspective of one of the teachers who was caught up cheating. The guy in the article explain how he got involved with cheating. Let's be real, these teachers were wrong for cheating. They should have not done so. But I think it is very important those who want to be critical of those involved, especially those who held the job title of "Teacher," become one! Just for a year, especially in the environment in which all of the teachers involved work in. These educators worked in areas where students' and parents' do not necessarily value education or it may have to take a backseat to life! They worked in environments in which more than 60 to 70 percent of students move during the course of the school year. They worked in environments in which you as an educator, try your hardest to bring them up to par, yet it is still not good enough.
Imagine having administrator and those administrators ,who have bosses, create a culture of fear and intimidation. That is what these people had to deal with. To say they should have been honest and told someone earlier, that is easier said than done. We teach children that they should have their own mind and speak up when things are not right; however, we do not teach children the power that others can seem to have on us.
While I do not condone cheating, think about the extreme pressure they were in. More importantly, like the video above said, continuously public school educators are persecuted. It is no wonder why many are leaving the profession at alarming levels. Have you ever been between a rock and a hard place? For many of these educators, it was (excuse the language) a damned if you do and a damned if you don't situation? Have you ever had to deal with retaliation?
What I think is even more, people make it seem like cheating only happened in Atlanta Public Schools...naw, it happened and probably still happens in many places, just not quite as organized. How many people can honestly say they had a teacher kind of hinted the answer to them while they took one of these tests especially considering the student knew the answer, but was torn between to answer choices? It is funny like the people in the video above mentioned; back in 2008, the CEOs and Wall Street Executives never receive any time, and many of them are living comfortably still; while like the children in the APS scandal, everyone else is still hurting?
We are trying to punish these individuals, but when are people also going to stop trying to privatize public education? Teachers are told to help children become better thinkers and people, but we are going to be measure by a faulty test that is not completely culturally relevant?! In a way like the young woman mentioned in the video, sometimes it is hard to work in public education when you feel, rather know, the system is against you.
Someone asked me before do I think race had anything to do with it...no. I think it has to do with class status. I do also feel that for the teachers and probably for some school administrators (I think people forget they have bosses too and things are outside their control), suspension of their license for a certain period of time would have been suffice. Those central office employees who threatened the school based employees should have been found guilty (and some were) and serve time for the organization of these plans and decisions they forced the teachers to take.
Imagine you have just taught a child all year long. They were behind in some areas of reading and math when they came to you. They are in fifth grade at the beginning of the year, yet reading on a first grade reading level. They do not have the phonemic awareness and phonics skills needed to become more fluent readers. Imagine they do not understand how to do division and word problems because they do not have number sense and can't comprehend what a problem is being said to them. Now imagine having moved the child from a first grade reading level to a third grade reading level and from not having number sense to being able to do multiplication. This was the reality of many of the students and teachers involved. They were making a difference. But you can't measure the grow of those people because the test is just testing them on what they should have mastered just for fifth grade; however, you would not have been able to teach them the fifth grade standards due to the fact they have not master previous grades standards!
This is the reality of what many of these educators faced. When is the system going to use universal screeners that tests where children are at the beginning of the school year and see how they have grown. Some places have begun to do this. But, we have to stop looking at the end of year standardized tests as the end all, be all and as just part of the puzzle to help paint the picture of the whole child?! Sorry to go on my tangent. I stand corrected! I am not sorry! I have been asked my opinion and here it is...long, but this is not a simple topic with a simple answer. It is a multi-faceted subject that requires an in depth analysis of what happened and why.