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AS I SEE IT

Posted 7/27/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor


A teacher’s job is to help students to learn. That means teachers working with students on a daily basis to make sure that the students are completing their assignments and are proficient in the subjects that are being taught to them. That is the whole point of education and the emphasis that is being placed on teaching each and every student in our nation’s school systems in the No Child Left Behind Act.
But what happens when students don’t learn and aren’t proficient in the classes that they are taking? Obviously, the student fails the class. And if enough students are failing in national standard tests then the school system fails as well and faces significant consequences from the federal Dept. of Education.
So the pressure on teachers and administrators in schools across the country is immense to make sure that their students are learning what is being taught and passing these tests.
But how far would a school district go to make sure that student test scores meet or exceed the No Child Left Behind standards?
Apparently when teaching doesn’t work, some school district teachers and administrators have resorted to cheating by changing students’ answers in these tests to bolster the students’ test scores and thus, the school district’s overall assessment.
And that is just what has been happening in Atlanta, Ga., where a 10-month investigation has found that 178 educators, including 38 principals in dozens of schools have been tampering with students’ answers to improve test scores.
In the largest cheating scandal in the history of this country’s educational system, Atlanta teachers admitted to spending nights huddled in back rooms erasing wrong answers on students’ test sheets and filling in the correct answers. Not only were the teachers doing the cheating by altering students’ test sheets, but at other schools they actually placed struggling students next to higher-performing classmates so they could copy answers.
If this was an isolated incident, some people would just recommend a slap on the wrist to the wayward teachers and school administrators.
But according to Georgia investigators, nearly half of Atlanta’s schools allowed the cheating to go unchecked for as long as a decade, going all the way back to 2001.
What was going on in the Atlanta public school system is both a shame and a horrible tragedy. The school administrators and the teachers involved in the scandal have corrupted the integrity of their schools. And in passing students with failing grades on to higher grades when they cannot master the subjects at their current learning level, these education professionals guaranteed that they would be literally sending hundreds and thousands of illiterate youth into a world with virtually no hope of their ever succeeding.
Not everyone that attends high school has his or her sights set on attending college and becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, physicist or a teacher. But it is the job of our public school system and the administrators and teachers to adequately prepare each and every student to be able to achieve their goals. For some students, that may mean challenging students with the highest level of math and science classes that a district can offer. For other students, it may mean providing them with the means to master reading, writing and arithmetic.
The public school system in Atlanta failed miserably in their mission to provide a quality education. In fact, the argument could be made that through the pervasive and fraudulent changing of test answers as well as the encouragement of widespread cheating by students, the school administrators and teachers involved failed to provide any education at all.
And for that they deserve to be fired.