Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Atlanta Cheating Scandal is Just A Small Part of the Real Story

This article by John Thompson of the Huffington Post references an earlier story in the New Yorker Magazine that does an excellent job of reporting an accurate picture of the Atlanta school cheating scandal. The whole nation was shocked by the cheating for which teachers have now been sentenced to harsh prison terms. No one can ever excuse the collapse of ethics and morality that happened over several years in Atlanta schools as test answers were changed and a host of other methods were used to falsify student achievement. But the real story revealing the foolish polices that led to this scandal is much more important.

The Baton Rouge Advocate editors should have read these stories before writing their editorial on the same subject.  The Advocate editorial is very shallow in its conclusions and is written mostly to defend the insane standardized testing culture that has been forced on public education (but not on private schools). The sad truth of this sequence of events beginning with the impossible demands of the No Child Left Behind law and then Obama's Race to the Top is that when politicians set impossible goals and then blame and shame educators who do not meet those goals, horrible things happen to our educational system. These new laws have caused plenty of other potential scandals in Washington DC schools and in several states including Louisiana that have been covered up to avoid scandals like the one in Atlanta.

But the value of the reporting by the New Yorker and the Huffington Post is that these articles reveal the many complex layers of deception that are still occurring across the U.S. as our school systems are forced by bad laws to attack the wrong problems and blame the educators when these strategies fail. These stories point out that there never was a magic formula for reversing the academic problems caused by the many manifestations of neglect of children in our high poverty neighborhoods. Those who led the charge against schools with the battle cry of "no excuses" are guilty of educational and policy malpractice but they will never pay. Atlanta and the Washington DC systems had been held up as proof that poverty does not matter and that good teachers and high expectations can cure anything. It was a lie, and only these rare pieces of quality reporting reveal the truth.

I responded to The Advocate editorial with a comment including a short list of other forms of educational distortions in Louisiana that could easily be equated to the Atlanta scandal. These serious abuses have been overlooked by a media intent on promoting magic solutions to our education problems. Several investigators have revealed that in Louisiana, in addition to instances of cheating similar to Atlanta which have never been brought to court, our education authorities have found other creative ways of falsifying student progress. Here are a few of the ways the public is deceived:

  • Some charter schools have developed effective methods using parent counseling and disciplinary procedures to transfer disruptive and low performing students to the real public schools so that their school scores can be inflated.
  • Some schools abuse the use of credit recovery courses in high schools to allow students who have failed courses to get credit by doing only minimal work. I had one person who responded to this comment pointing out that her students had achieved good results on credit recovery courses. This may very well be true but since the LDOE no longer monitors such courses, serious abuses can and have occurred.
  • Student dropout statistics have been falsified by some schools by reporting dropouts as transfers to other states where the records cannot be traced. The LDOE has not insisted on transcript requests from the receiving schools to document the transfers allowing this fraud to go on mostly unchecked.
  • The LDOE and their testing companies can and have lowered the passing scores on state tests to insure that the public is led to believe that students are succeeding on the new Common Core aligned tests. How could a score of 38% on a 7th grade math test possibly be considered passing when a student can get 25% of multiple choice questions right just by guessing. When I published these scores (that were only obtained as a result of a public records lawsuit), one educator pointed out that he did not see any difference between this manipulation and the Atlanta cheating scheme.
  • The state no longer enforces promotion standards for passing to the 5th and 9th grades, again encouraging schools to pass students who may not have minimum knowledge. Yet local educators are blamed if students cannot succeed in college or meet basic standards for employment.
This is the point: Simply passing a law that mandates that all students must be proficient in math and English does not make it happen. Simply punishing teachers and closing schools where large numbers of at-risk students attend does not insure that they will get a better education elsewhere. Turning over students to privately managed charter schools and voucher schools that are poorly monitored does not solve the problem, but it makes some managers a lot of money. The highly touted New Orleans Recovery District schools as a whole are performing at the 16th percentile level in a state that is ranked near the bottom of the 50 states. Yet the biased, totally inaccurate reporting about the Louisiana RSD has led to the adoption of the same disastrous model by several other states. All of these efforts are also dismal failures.

Ironically, Georgia where this cheating scandal occurred, is now in the process of adopting the fraudulent Louisiana RSD model.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, White kids and teachers - not so much!

The news media (and maybe the courts), also, need to look into the 2004 Siemens Science 'competition' scandal and its 'deliberate' 10 year cover-up! Over 60-80 million people were never told the truth about that one, including any of the 1200+ other contestants! Could be an even bigger scandal than the Atlanta teacher cheating scandal, because even more people were involved in the cover-up of the 2004 scandal - including some journalists! Could also be a lot bigger than the Brian Williams and Rolling Stone scandal, as well.

I found the actual 'facts', here: