The cheating regime that arose as an inevitable response to the testing regime

As I read today’s New York Times article on the massive cheating scandal in the Atlanta public schools (see earlier entry on same subject), it’s still not clear to me whether the main impetus for the cheating was the federal No Child Left Behind law, or Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or whether the two are simply parts of the same testing regime. (Note: other news articles have made it clear that NCLB was the ruling thing here, and the CRCT was the state’s response to it.) Any way you look at it, the lesson is undeniable: To make teachers’ and administrators’ careers contingent on black pupils’ performing at levels equals to those of whites, or in any case at levels of which they, the black pupils, are not capable, is virtually to ensure that those teachers and administrators will engage in massive cheating on mandated tests of student progress.

Yet, though the lesson is undeniable, people keep denying it. How is this possible? Because they still believe in an underlying racial equality of abilities, and therefore they still believe that blacks’ educational performance can somehow be raised to that of whites, and therefore they believe, as Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta puts it,

The cheating, he said, showed a complete failure of leadership that hurt thousands of children who might have been promoted to the next grade without meeting basic academic standards. [Emphasis added.]

In a variation of “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Reed assumes that the children could have been deservedly promoted to the next grade, but that they were cheated of the real academic progress that they might have achieved and thus harmed. He doesn’t admit the possibility that they weren’t capable of being admitted legitimately to the next grade under existing standards, and that this was what made the cheating necessary from the point of view of educators whose careers were dependent on pupils being promoted.

Has it occurred yet to a single mainstream conservative (almost all of whom supported NCLB) that these recurrent, indeed almost nonstop, cheating scandals and other educational messes that we are seeing in our country all have to do with black intellectual incapacity and the effort to overcome it? Has it occurred to a single one of these conservatives that if we simply accepted the fact that there are significant racial differences in intellectual abilities and stopped trying to change that fact, many of these problems would go away?

Here’s the Times article:

Systematic Cheating Is Found in Atlanta’s School System

ATLANTA—A state investigation released Tuesday showed rampant, systematic cheating on test scores in this city’s long-troubled public schools, ending two years of increasing skepticism over remarkable improvements touted by school leaders.

The results of the investigation, made public by Gov. Nathan Deal, showed that the cheating occurred at 44 schools and involved at least 178 teachers and principals, almost half of whom have confessed, the governor said.

A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, he said in a prepared statement. “There will be consequences,” Mr. Deal said.

That will certainly include dismissals, according to school board members and the interim superintendent, Erroll B. Davis Jr., and could possibly result in criminal charges.

The findings of the investigation, which was conducted by a former state attorney general and a former county district attorney, will be delivered to district attorneys in three counties where cheating most likely took place.

Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta called the release of the investigation “a dark day for the Atlanta public school system.”

The cheating, he said, showed a complete failure of leadership that hurt thousands of children who might have been promoted to the next grade without meeting basic academic standards.

At the center of the cheating scandal is former Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, who was named the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year and has been considered one of the nation’s best at running large, urban districts.

Dr. Hall, who announced in November that she would be leaving the job at the end of June, left Tuesday for a Hawaiian vacation.

Dr. Hall is a veteran administrator of the New York and Newark public schools. She took over the Atlanta district in 1999 and enjoyed broad support. Under her administration, Atlanta schools had shown marked improvement in several areas.

Still, the investigation shows that cheating on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test began as early as 2001, and that “clear and significant” warnings were raised as early as December 2005. Dr. Hall’s administration punished whistle-blowers, hid or manipulated information and illegally altered documents related to the tests, the investigation found. The superintendent and her administration “emphasized test results and public praise to the exclusion of integrity and ethics,” the investigators wrote.

In 2008, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution began aggressive reporting that questioned the statistical probability of some test scores and eventually led to a separate state investigation of 2009 tests that showed an unusually high number of erasures.

The specter of widespread cheating caused rifts within the business and religious communities and contributed to a tumultuous school board power struggle. That disarray led the body that accredits the district’s high schools to review whether the district could hold on to its rating. That review is expected to culminate in September, when inspectors return to see if the school board has improved its performance and how it handled the fallout from the cheating scandal.

Mr. Deal and Mr. Reed also made moves to control the school board, supporting a new law written specifically to address the issue. It gives Mr. Deal the power to suspend the entire school board for jeopardizing the district’s accreditation.

Just how badly students were affected by the altered scores is difficult to determine; however, some 12,000 students whose tests might have been tampered with have attended remedial classes after school and on weekends.

Parents of the 55,000 students who attend Atlanta public schools have found themselves torn between defending beloved teachers who said they felt pressured to cheat, worrying about the quality of their children’s education and wanting to support a district that has been improving.

“It becomes a question of what it means to be educated,” said Maria Pease, a former teacher who is the parent of a high school student. “Does it mean the highest test score? I would argue it does not. This is part and parcel of a general dysfunction that isn’t particular to Atlanta public schools.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 06, 2011 04:18 PM | Send

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