This is getting to be an old story (see here and here), but it's an important one. Yesterday's release of a report on the three-year-old Atlanta schools test cheating scandal seems to confirm our worst fears:? it was widespread, which means it was systemic, involving 44 schools and 178 teachers. According to Kim Severson, writing in today's New York Times*, ?a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence.?**? Said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who released the report, ?There will be consequences.?
Let's hope so. No doubt, the case will fan the flames of the high-stakes testing fires. Are we putting too much pressure on teachers to ?perform?? And their administrators? Apparently, even one-time National Superintendent of the Year Beverly Hall is implicated. (As Severson reports, she just retired and? ?left Tuesday for a Hawaiian vacation.?) How do you explain systemic cheating?
As I opined last February, ?the range and depth of the problem, especially given the improbability of a conspiracy, is troubling.? Lacking a conspiracy, we are left with an explanation of?moral and ethical breakdown of epidemic proportions. And the question: how is the virus spread??
I'm not sure if the? "conspiracy of silence" proves me wrong, but there are things that can be done?including putting people in jail?and I would hope that Governor Deal is serious about consequences.
By the same token, our policymakers need to take a close look at the policies and practices that not only encourage cheating, but make it easy. When I wrote about Atlanta last February, there was another story about cheating, in New York schools. The word there was ?manipulating? data. As Sharon Otterman of the Times reported,
The Regents exams [the statewide tests...