A shocking scandal unfolded in Atlanta this week as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released a report stating that at least 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta Public Schools cheated to raise student scores on high-stakes standardized tests.
According to investigators, there was a "widespread" conspiracy in the Atlanta school system by teachers, principals and administrators to fix answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). Not only that, by those involved conspired to punish whistleblowers and hide improprieties to keep actions under the radar.
All of this comes in the wake of awards that the Atlanta school system and superintendent had received for recent "improvements" in the school system — especially in inner city schools. These improvements were based on standardized test score results.
The scandal is shocking and embarrassing for the residents, students, and school officials in the Atlanta area. But the city is certainly not alone. Dozens of major cheating scandals have been uncovered around the country and critics are arguing that the scandals highlight the real problem in education — the ever-increasing dependence on standardized tests. Tests that reward or punish students, teachers and school administrators based on a child's prowess at completing a few hours of multiple-choice questions rather than making real academic improvements throughout a school year. Ten states use these test scores as the main component of teacher evaluations. Other states base teacher bonuses and even future job security on test results.
I won't begin to argue that it was right for the teachers and school administrators to cheat. But I will say that I can see how incredible the pressure must be to do so. What I find most troubling is that the folks involved spent so much time initiating a complicated web of deception rather than just throwing themselves into doing whatever they could to improve these kids' test scores.