The Sunday AJC is full of good education stories, but the one that will get people talking is an investigation into the fallout to APS teachers who report cheating on state high-stakes tests.
(If you don’t get the AJC on Sunday, this would be the day to pick up a newspaper as there is a lot to read, long story on how SACS works, a news piece on APS accreditation, an editorial on APS and two columns on education issues.)
As is often the case with whistle blowers, APS teachers told the AJC that they experienced push back and recriminations for coming forward, although many still work for the Atlanta schools.
One of the common tactics in discrediting whistle blowers is to turn the focus on them and their job performance. It’s also an effective means to intimidate other employees from ever coming forward.
Teachers in the story allege that is what happened to them in Atlanta.
According to the investigative piece by AJC reporter Alan Judd and Heather Vogell: (Please read the full piece as it is lengthy.)
The newspaper reviewed reports of the school district’s internal investigations and spoke with more than a dozen current and former Atlanta educators. The documents and the interviews describe a culture that punishes employees who report wrongdoing and rewards those who keep silent. Some whistle-blowers end up under scrutiny themselves. Others are subjected to questions about their mental health. Some lose their jobs.
The prospect of even the most subtle forms of reprisal not only discourages teachers from reporting impropriety, educators say, it makes them more susceptible to pressure to cheat on such assessments as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.
Not one educator confessed during the school district’s initial inquiry into widespread cheating on the 2009 CRCT. Now, under threat of criminal prosecution if they lie to state agents investigating the cheating scandal, numerous Atlanta educators have acknowledged witnessing or participating in irregularities.
“It’s just this thing that everyone knows is going on but nobody says anything,” said former teacher Sidnye Fells, who alleged that administrators at Dobbs Elementary cheated. “It’s the elephant in the room. If you say anything, you lose your job.”
– From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog