By Ben Velderman
ATLANTA – The standardized-test cheating scandal that continues to rock Atlanta Public Schools is turning into quite a soap opera.
Earlier this week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the massive cheating scandal was the consequence of “test-crazed policies” being implemented by education reformers across the nation.
Now, some critics are claiming that racism is the reason that 35 indicted teachers and school employees are being severely punished for allegedly changing students’ standardized test answers.
What a pathetic excuse.
The drama stems from allegations that as many as 150 teachers from 44 Atlanta government schools were involved in altering students’ test answers, in an effort to help their school meet federal achievement standards (as part of the No Child Left Behind law) and to qualify themselves for bonuses.
Atlanta educators were allegedly “ushered into windowless rooms and left to erase student test answers and write in the correct ones,” notes a Press Democrat editorial.
“At one school, officials reportedly held pizza parties as teachers held ‘erasure parties.’ It’s a small wonder that in a single year, scores at that school jumped 45 percent,” the editorial notes.
Out of the 150 teachers who were allegedly involved in carrying out the deceit, only 35 of them “were named in a 65-count indictment … that alleges a broad conspiracy to cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster student test scores and, as a result, receive bonuses for improved student performance,” reports CBS News.
Now some community groups are charging that African-Americans are being unfairly targeted and given excessive bond requirements that they must pay in order to stay out of jail.
For example, one of the 35 accused educators initially had her bond set at $1 million. That amount was eventually reduced to $50,000, the New York Times reports.
Rev. Timothy McDonald, a spokesman for the group Concerned Black Clergy, found that unfair.
“Look at the pictures of those 35. Show me a white face,” McDonald said, according to the Times. “Let’s just be for real. You can call it racist, you can call it whatever you want, but this is overkill. We have seen people with much deeper crimes with much less bond set.”
It’s unfortunate that the Atlanta cheating scandal is rapidly becoming a sideshow in which all types of hucksters and activists can draw attention to themselves – and their personal agendas.
As their noise increases, it will drown out the voices of the scandal’s real victims: the students.
The Press Democrat editorial ends with “the story of a third-grade student who received the worst score in her reading class in 2006” but who easily passed her assessment test.
The editorial notes that “the girl is now in ninth grade, and, according to her parents, she reads at a fifth-grade level.”
If union leaders and black community leaders want something to be outraged about, it should be the fact that so many Atlanta students were being given a lousy education and thoughtlessly passed along from grade to grade.
That’s the real scandal. There should be no sympathy for those so-called educators who are found guilty of cheating, regardless of the color of their skin.