Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Atlanta: Biggest Cheating Scandal in U.S. History

For Grumpy and Sandra

While the public's attention was riveted on the Casey Anthony trial and legislators fighting about the debt ceiling, bloggers following education reform lit up with breaking news all day.

The two year investigation of test cheating concluded pointing culpability directly at Atlanta school district teachers, administrators, and senior officials.
The 55,000-student Atlanta public school system rose in national prominence during the 2000s, as test scores steadily rose and the district received notice and funding from the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation. But behind that rise, the state found, were teachers and principals in 44 schools erasing and changing test answers. [bold added]

One of the most troubling aspects of the Atlanta cheating scandal, says the report, is that the district repeatedly refused to properly investigate or take responsibility for the cheating. Moreover, the central office told some principals not to cooperate with investigators. In one case, an administrator instructed employees to tell investigators to "go to hell." When teachers tried to alert authorities, they were labeled "disgruntled." One principal opened an ethics investigation against a whistle-blower.

Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Maureen Downey points to proving that "the faith of the Broad and Gates Foundations and the Chamber of Commerce in the district was not misplaced and that APS could rewrite the script of urban education in America and provide a happy, or at least a happier, ending for its students."

"And that’s what ought to alarm us," adds Ms. Downey, "that these professionals ultimately felt their students could not even pass basic competency tests, despite targeted school improvement plans, proven reforms, and state-of-the-art teacher training."

Will these findings open an honest, fact-based debate on the way costly high-stakes assessment under NCLB and under Race to the Top proposals, have neither achieved accountability, nor affected student achievement? Who benefits from these misguided initiatives?

Read the full Christian Science Monitor article here.


  1. Hello Atlanta and America! According to a report less than one hour ago, the blame was spread around: "No child left behind"; poor test scores can get teachers fired, so they willingly assist student cheat; students with low grades could mean obtaining tutors for students (which the school districts aren't too pleased about)and this is not just in Atlanta - it is nation-wide! The report on Fox News noted that cheating has become wide-spread since 2001.

    Private or home schooling are options some parents are taking, while others have only one option - public schools. Teachers allow students to take tests with "cheat lists" open for all to see, plus having teachers give verbal answers while students are being tested.

    Without honesty and integrity among teachers and the school system, adding 2 + 2 will always equal 5. The students are bound to fail within a failing system.

  2. Fox made some incorrect statements. Under NCLB, federal funding was provided and paid for tutoring. This funding opened up some tutoring businesses and went to after school programs that paid teachers. Under NCLB, poor standardized test scores designated a letter grade to a school, not to particular teachers. Failure to improve school test scores led to sanctions on the school and funding losses.
    Tennessee is now the sixth State to inform the federal government, it will not abide by the existing NCLB, while Congress tries to figure out a fix. The States will not abide by Race to the Top which has not been legislated yet either. These States are declaring they will figure out accountability by themselves. This story is exploding to fast for me. For details and references, go to: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/

  3. This event makes me wonder if the district level staff went to the Madoff School of Corruption. They had the responsibility to investigate thoroughly and ensure integrity of the system. Instead, like a Ponzi scheme, they pretended. There are no excuses. However, the outside pressures influencing this environment cannot be ignored.

  4. Scathing Purple Musings is on a roll. Check out today's blog on the CATO Institute's view of NCLB, in a piece called "NCLB a Barrier, Not an Aid." An idea is proposed that strikes me as both reasonable and cost effective. Why is it ignored?

  5. Sandra, the outside pressures are unbelievable, and need to be ended, In spite of what Jeb Bush and Barack Obama might try to sell the public, The Fed doesn't have the authority to control education.

    Might be time for the states to keep the money to begin with... and get the DC Middleman out of the way

  6. Hey Grumpy! Bob at Scathing Purple Musings is on a roll in all the fast moving events. He posted one from his conservative point-of-view here:

    He also mentioned that Governor Perry thinks NCLB is a monstrous on our affairs, which suggests some push back on Bush era initiatives:

    Race to the Top is NCLB on steroids.


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