COMMENTARY | In Atlanta Tuesday, a steady stream of teachers — 35 in all — will turn themselves into police for what has been called the largest cheating ring in the country. And, reports CBS News, some may get as many as 20 years if convicted.
Allegedly at the behest of retired school superintendent Beverly Hall, more than 200 teachers altered students’ answers on standardized tests in order to artificially raise scores for the school system. Some, according to CBS News, had answer-changing pizza parties.
Answer-changing pizza parties. Not review with the students. Parties to substitute correct answers for wrong ones.
We should really just call this relentless standardized testing what it is: de-education. It is an excuse to not teach children. Knowing how to fill in little bubbles on an answer sheet is not an education.
Given that the test results are used to measure teacher “success” and are often the basis for financial gains, whether in the form of bonuses or salaries, there is an enormous temptation to make the test scores look as good as possible, regardless of what they may really be. And that, precisely, is the problem.
Making test scores look good doesn’t mean that children are learning anything — even if they take the tests themselves.
It is a hollow means of education, nothing more than paper mache over a balloon that will, eventually, pop.
Perhaps most egregious is the example given of math proficiency leaping from 24 percent to 86 percent in a single year. Kids didn’t actually learn more math. They didn’t learn it better, and the district didn’t attempt to improve the appalling system that seems to educate less than a quarter of its students.
School system allegedly simply changed the scores themselves. Presto. No messy “education” needed.
The list of the disservices we heap upon the children of this country daily is a long one. We don’t teach children how to be good losers; we don’t make them sit with and deal with frustration; we give them unearned praise, and research shows that they are harmed for it.
But of all the things we could do, using schools as eight-hour childcare and not much else is the lowest, the most vile. If kids are learning anything in that Atlanta school system, it’s despite it, not because of it.
And that’s despicable.
Teachers go through higher education just so that they can feed the minds of children, and yet here are at least 35 of them who would, allegedly, prefer to leave them with empty minds and higher test scores. It’s a flim-flam act of unthinkable callousness.
I went to public schools, and I had teachers who tried to strengthen my weaknesses, who identified my talents, who offered me the priceless gift of that spark of knowledge. Excellent public education is not only possible, it happens daily all over the country.
But what reportedly happened in Atlanta is a travesty. Instead of putting time and energy into ways to improve the quality of education, they apparently ground up all the gristle, the meat scraps and unpalatable bits and created the pink slime of education.
And sold it for a profit.