The “We-had-to-cheat-because-the-standards-were-a-pain” defense

Here is an op-ed that runs Monday in the AJC by Robert Maranto, the 21st Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. He has two children in public school.

A few years back a friend who teaches at a large public university accused a student of cheating.

This particular university has an honor system run by students. My friend dutifully filled out extensive paperwork to report the incident, but at the hearing many weeks later was dismayed that the student honor committee members seemed to want to let their peer off the hook.

Finally, perhaps out of guilt, the accused young woman blurted out: “Don’t you understand I had to cheat — the professor was such a bitch.”

Oddly enough, most of my friend’s students passed without cheating. In the end even the student committee dismissed this defense, convicting the student.

I thought about that comic episode during the current school cheating scandals. In many Atlanta public schools, and at least a few public schools in other cities, evidence suggests that teachers and administrators changed student answers on standardized tests to make their schools look good.

It is unremarkable that in any human endeavor some people, even educators, will be tempted to cheat.

What is remarkable is how other educators react to cheating. Groups like FairTest have embraced the “We-had-to-cheat-because-the-standards-were-a-bitch” defense.

While admitting that cheating is wrong, FairTest’s Robert Schaeffer nonetheless insisted in a recent column on these pages that, “When test scores become the sole or primary tool for evaluating students, classrooms and schools, educators feel they must get the scores they need by hook or by crook.

With ever-escalating pressure, it’s not surprising that more educators are pushed across the ethical line.”

Respected educators like Deborah Meier go even farther, insisting that we can only expect teachers to be honest when cheating ends on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms, and presumably when the messiah arrives and the voice of the turtle is heard across the land.

Only when the entire world becomes just will educators to join in. Leaving ethics aside —if one can do that — perhaps it is difficult to blame cheaters when policy-makers demand that they do the impossible.

So is academic achievement impossible in disadvantaged communities? Many educators argue, at least in private, that very few low-income children and children of color are capable of reading and doing math at grade level.

Are they right?

I’ve spent much of the past two years doing fieldwork in high poverty/high achievement schools, public charter schools like Dove Science Academy in Oklahoma City, but also traditional public schools like Grace Hill Elementary in Rogers, Arkansas.

My observations dovetail with a decade of work by scholars and journalists like Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, Karin Chenoweth and Jay Mathews. Like them, I’ve found that even in the poorest communities, most kids can learn.

That does not mean that high-poverty/high-achievement schools work exactly the same as low- poverty/high-achievement schools.

Effective principals in high-poverty schools spend time building a disciplined culture and making their schools islands of predictability in unsafe communities.

These schools frequently measure student achievement and push students and faculty to make steady improvement. The principals encourage less successful teachers to copy their more successful peers, and give extra work to help students in danger of falling behind.

What these schools do is difficult, but it is not impossible. So why don’t others copy them?

I think the main culprit is the ideology that poverty is destiny. As University of Chicago professor Charles Payne shows in his 2008 book, “So Much Reform, So Little Change,” many educators believe that disadvantaged children cannot learn.

Similarly, a principal in a KIPP charter school in Houston told me that he works well with other educators who shared his view that most poor children can learn.

He explained: “Once that assumption is shared with people you are talking to, then it is all about problem solving.

The problem is if the people you are talking to don’t believe that kids can learn, then it is a not useful conversation because it becomes a rabbit hole of but, but, but, but, but.”

Until we get beyond the “buts” and copy success rather than enabling those who fake it, educators will never be all they can be, and ultimately poor kids will suffer.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

82 comments Add your comment


September 16th, 2011
5:51 am

Enjoyed the read! I have said it before- Principals have become PR representatives. Often looking to create what looks like a good school (grade inflation- sweeping dirt under the carpet) without doing the footwork required to make these schools successful (climate with expectations that students will perform- positive learning climate with consistently enforced rules). I agree with the author.

Rick in Grayson

September 16th, 2011
6:00 am

The children of China and India do not feel this way. They are willing to work hard to achieve academic success. That is why our children will not have professional jobs over the next 30 years. Those jobs will be done by the Chinese and Indians!

Unfunded pension

September 16th, 2011
6:32 am

What if these “educators” made the argument that our children are too stupid to learn or “they don’t really need to learn this material”? Wouldn’t they be ridiculed out of the profession?
Sounds like the same thing.


September 16th, 2011
6:34 am

So Deborah Meier, thinks we bear no responsibility to act ethically unless and until everyone else acts ethically? Incredible.


September 16th, 2011
6:34 am

There is some validity to his defense, sad to say. As a parent (I am not a teacher) at a high-performing Cobb County high school, we see that parent invlivement (or lack thereof) makes all the difference in the world in a their students’ performance. Uninvolved parents (regardless of racial/cultural/socioeconomic factors) tend to have children who are more at risk for poor academic performance and behavior problems.

That fact is NEVER going to change, so you can take your “It Takes A Village” mentality and throw it out the window. There are some really sorry teachers out there, but most try their hardest to help students succeed in spite of all the factors working against them. If the kid is going home to sorry parents, there’s no accountability, nuturing, mentoring, etc. The schools can only do so much in a 7-hour day. Those kids ares till going home to a crappy home environment to parents who have no business being parents. This is just as prevelant in East Cobb as it is in Mableton.

The pressure on the teachers and administrators to boost numbers s immense. Face it- not everyone is cut out to be a Harvard Phi Beta Kappa. Some kids will be ditch diggers due to home environment or lack of intellect. And the World needs ditch diggers, too.

mountain man

September 16th, 2011
6:49 am

It is not ” I have to cheat because the standards are a bitch”, it is “I have to cheat because the standards are unrealistic and practically impossible.” To require a teacher to make sure every student in his/her class is at a certain level when the teacher cannot require attendance in the classroom or discipline students, is setting the teacher up for failure. Especially if they inherit students that have been allowed ahead into grades they shouldn’t be in by administrators previously. Give the teacher the right to compel attendance and homework completion, to send disciplinary problems to the administration where they must be effectively dealt with before they are allowed back in the classroom, and require first-day testing to verify that the student is in the correct grade level and has not been “socially promoted”. Do this and THEN you can start to take teachers to task and make them responsible.


September 16th, 2011
6:58 am

Well, I agree that it is not so much SES as it is SES-related behaviors/attitudes. We frequently link SES with race (see Lee’s postings) but those of us who work with poor white folks know it isn’t race.

When you see little hope for improving your situation, you spend the last $10 on lottery tickets instead of books for your kids. When you feel unable to provide the latest thing for your kids, you buy whiskey instead. You believe you are predestined to live the life you are living, and don’t see education (and the hard work it takes) as an agent to a better life. Some would say our welfare policies, as well, let folks get what they need (housing, food, medical care) without the honest effort it actually takes.

Our poor students who succeed usually have parents who have bought into the idea that education is hard work, but that it is the key for their kids.

I have seen this in action. In 1974 I was registering kindergarteners and a very poor, young mama brought her child to be enrolled. She couldn’t read, she told me, so I had to fill out the paperwork. When I got to father’s name, she told me the girl had no father. 21 year old, middle class me was shocked–she was my age and couldn’t read and couldn’t/wouldn’t name the father of her child?

This woman was from one of those legendary Appalachian families of 8 or 9 kids who lived off the generosity of their neighbors. Some of the kids (this woman included) had children who were actually fathered by their own father! (Grandfather is also father). She went on to have 9 kids of her own after marrying another dirt poor man, but she engendered in her children and now grandchildren the importance of education. She herself obtained a GED after dropping out pregnant by her own father at 13, after having 3 or 4 kids. Now, although she is my age, she has a great-grandchild. I am currently teaching her grandchildren, and the ones I have met do seem to have the understanding that they have to work hard to do well.

She is, however, the exception.

I know about those “buts”. My kids at school laugh when I say, “That is a BIG BUT” when I qualify something. BUT I don’t know how to raise parental expectations of their children, or how to raise their willingness to devote scarce resources to their children’s education. THAT, it seems like to me, is the key, and so far we haven’t found a way to do it.


September 16th, 2011
7:02 am

Another good(Bad) example of the
lessening of moral standards.

Sk8ing Momma

September 16th, 2011
7:08 am

I am enraged to know that some educators believe that low-income and children of color are incapable of being educated. That is nothing less than ignorant and racist because one’s aptitude has nothing to do with either of those factors. It is unfortunate that people who hold these views become professional educators.

Just as it is unfortunate for some children that they cannot choose their parents, it is apparent that it is just as unfortunate that children cannot choose their teachers. Sad indeed!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

September 16th, 2011
7:20 am

The majority of APS employees have serious lack of character and lack of morals issues. The above article is no surprise whatsoever to Dr NO.

I do however stand firm in my belief of some negative reinforcement and very much is needed for our friends at APS. Let the firings begin, IN EARNEST!!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

September 16th, 2011
7:21 am

PS…Just for the common good, lets put a few behind bars also!!


September 16th, 2011
7:26 am

@Catlady, actually, I link IQ with race. But I do think there is a correlation between IQ and socioeconomic condition.


September 16th, 2011
7:27 am

Our society is too bossy,punitiveand unneccesarily over burden. Exams may be designed as a filtering tool or as an investigative tool. It depends on how it is being used.
In the case of CRCt, it is a tool to measure how much the student has progressed in the education ladder.

Whenever a child fails an exam it is the yeacher’s fault. This case is analogous to a team losing a game due to a lousy performance of the players; the blame is put on the Coach.However, the Coach has the power to determine which player is to be fielded.The teacher has no power which student is to be in his//her class.

The teacher is always given the wrong tools by the school’s bossy boards. People become Principals and Superintendents because the have gone for a PhD with very little experience in handling schools. The School Board are bunch of bossy politicians who wants extremely quick results. They have no experince in learning and teaching. The teacher is mere slave in the classroom at the mercy of the obnoxious students, unhappy and uncooperative parents, overbearing Principals, bossy Superintendents, unfriendly and intimidating Press whose duty is to incite the public against teachers and the short sighted Educational Consultants whose advise is plaster bandage. In the nutshell everybody lashes out at the teacher.

Everybody should chill and give the poor teacher an audience to talk out. The writer of this article is a retired teacher and I know all the problems. I have also had the opporunity to teach outside this great Nation. The students are very different. They study hard and play hard. Their failures are accountable to them. They are very settlwed. In our American Society, we are “neo nomadic”(quotation mine) in nature., Volatile family structure, violent public, uncompromising and too oppresive law enforcement. The average child sees all this and these and many other things is not a good and nurturing environment for learning.

The whole Society got to take the blame and begin to work towards improving our Society. Remember great Societies have sunk under their own foolies.

@ Rick in Grayson

September 16th, 2011
7:31 am

Let’s all move to China and India!

Cindy Lutenbacher

September 16th, 2011
7:31 am

Once again, I think we are seeing a false dichotomy here. If one even looks at the impacts of poverty upon schools and children, then one is accused of believing that “poor kids can’t learn.”

I’m amazed that researchers are asking the question, “Can poor kids learn?” Those of us who have spent our lives living and working in economically disadvantaged communities don’t even ask such an absurd question because we see and live the truth that all children can learn.

The lie is the idea that the standardized tests measure learning. They do not.

Former Teacher

September 16th, 2011
7:40 am

Of course all children can learn. They do it every day. They learn that when they don’t turn in work, they get endless chances. They learn that if they are repeatedly tardy, there are no penalties. They learn that regardless of effort, they get promoted. They learn that teachers can’t touch them without losing their jobs. They learn that when they complain, it is always the teacher that is wrong. They learn that when they put minimum effort into education, they can still get a diploma. They learn that in the world of education there are few absolutes and lots of grey areas. Because there are very few negative consequences to their actions, they have no reasons to change. When we refuse to cave, we will see change. When we demand excellence, we will see improvement. However, there is some danger of damaged self esteem and heaven forbid that should happen.

Dexter Jenkins

September 16th, 2011
7:49 am

This author makes broad generalizations about teachers that are simply not true. NCLB was set up to fail. As a teacher I feel we failed to fight the measures. If you said “100%” pass rates were not possible, you didn’t believe children could learn. As long as the rebuttal is “What about the children?” then logic and reason can’t be used as a defense.


September 16th, 2011
7:53 am

What is the difference between our “undocumented” friends from south of the border “cheating” the system and our American teachers “cheating” the system?
One group of people get a pass………the other group gets prosecuted.
What happened to that equal protection under the law thing?

teacher who cares

September 16th, 2011
7:56 am

All children can and do learn. They learn when they are given opportunities or they take it upon themselves to learn – it’s instinct. But what has been overlooked/forgotten is that they only learn as much as they are developmentally ready for …developmental became a dirty word with No Child Left Behind. You can’t have a child who is 3-5 years behind in a grade make up the difference in 9 months. You can encourage and push, but should celebrate the growth they make – not discourage because they didn’t meet or exceed the STANDARD. Cheating is wrong no matter the circumstance.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

September 16th, 2011
8:01 am

Former Teacher

September 16th, 2011
7:40 am

Oh yeah! TOUCHE’

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

September 16th, 2011
8:04 am

Dexter. I believe you are forgetting what our very wise secretary of state once uttered…”It takes a village.” And it does it really does, really it does, I swear to God it does…really, no doubt, I promise, take it to the bank because it does. ;)


September 16th, 2011
8:05 am

Much of what he says makes sense, but he’s set up a false dilemma. Either you’re a mountain-moving KIPP guy or an excuse-making quitter. When people talk about this issue there has to be room to have a can-do attitude about real, measurable academic achievement at economically impoverished schools while still recognizing the achievement deficits that are likely (if not certain) to occur when the social-economic starting line isn’t equal. The writer says “poor children can learn.” Of course they can. Duh! Nobody disagrees with that. But how much is reasonable to expect? There’s the rub.


September 16th, 2011
8:06 am

The standards as they are now are laughable. Actual learning has been replaced with doing whatever is necessary to boost scores and grad rates and if that means handing out diplomas to kids who can hardly write a coherent sentence(much less a job application) then so be it.
“We have met the enemy and he is us”-Pogo

Chuck Allison

September 16th, 2011
8:07 am

In a rigorous, worthwhile academic environment, some people will have inadequate talents to succeed, and they must fail. If the standards are lowered to allow them to pass, then you cheat the talented people out of a decent education. Not everyone passes, and it is not a justification to cheat just because it is the only way you could pass.
Some must fail or the standards are too low.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

September 16th, 2011
8:10 am

Hummons paragrah simplified. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs).”

This socio econmic BS is just another in a long line of excuses.

HS Public Teacher

September 16th, 2011
8:12 am

So then, is it okay for a thief to say that the circumstances make it okay to steal? Or, is it ever okay to murder someone?

Some people can rationalize their (bad) behavior. This does not mean that we have to accept it.

Regarding NCLB and education – this mess should never have been allowed to proceed to begin with. The educators that KNEW that this was a bad idea should have spoken up loudly enough to drown up the politicans that were ramming this through.

But especially in Georgia, educators are bashed so hard and so frequently by the public (and the AJC) that most of us just keep quiet and let the public learn the hard way. Besides you won’t listen to us, anyway.

The very scary part is that the impact of this mess will be felt for years and generations, even if the so-called “rules” of NCLB are suddenly halted. School systems are slowing moving machines and there are already in place a number of initiatives that are making their way through the schools due to NCLB.

Forget about classroom differentiation. NCLB has forced schools to rush to create common lessons and common assessments. Classroom teachers no longer have the flexibility to help an individual student so much. We cannot create innovative lesson plans because we MUST adhere to the ones provided. We cannot tailor assessments to suit the students in front of us because we MUST use the ones provided. NCLB has marched us down the path of ‘one-size-fits-all’ in education.

Keep in mind that these requirements are for all teachers. Many teachers have proven successes in the classroom with data to back up the fact that the teacher knows what they are doing. However, those successful teachers are now being forced to change how they teach in order to march to the drum with everyone else. This is a real shame!

Greg S.

September 16th, 2011
8:16 am

The entire educational system has failed up and down the line. Education in this country has been such a political game-piece real education has gone by the way. With few standards imposed on students it should be no surprise some students feel they have to cheat to get by. In a decent educational system, the grades are distributed in a bell curve shape. This means there are some students that fail. Yes, I said the ‘F’ word. Some students FAIL. And in actuality, a good program has a relativity high failure rate.It speaks of the quality of the school, professors and graduating students. Ask your doctor if he/she attended a medical school with an “open-door” policy.

To Teacher who cares from Good Mother

September 16th, 2011
8:18 am

You wrote: “Cheating is wrong no matter the circumstance.”

Bless you. That’s music to my ears.

It takes a village from Good Mother

September 16th, 2011
8:25 am

I was raised by a village. When my parents checked out of my life some caring strangers and a good teacher raised me.

I grew up poor, neglected and abused. I succeeded in a poor school with some lousy teachers but a couple of good ones who made a big difference in my life.

I am now an educated, intelligent, tax-paying citizen raising my own children to value education and democracy as we know it.

In spite of my poor upbringing I was raised to understand cheating is wrong. It is always wrong. I have no sympathy for those who cheated, lied and stole from Atlanta’s children. I hoppe they go to jail. For all those who knew about the cheating, they are guilty too. Complicit is guilty.

If anyone doesn’t like the way things are done at their work place they have a right to redress their grievances with our government with open and civil protest just as Dr. Martin Luther King did and Ghandi did.

There is no need to cheat – ever. This cheating and lying is costing my own children an education. They are in crowded trailers with some teachers who can’t speak or write English properly. Those cheating scoundrels cost APS a million a month not including Beverly Hall’s legal defense costs.

Yes, sure, put the Wall Street banksters behind prison doors too but don’t use it as an excuse to do what we know is immoral.


September 16th, 2011
8:25 am

Every child can learn…absolutely.

Can they all learn the SAME material? NO.
Can they all learn at the SAME pace? NO.

Georgia’s curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep. The recent “math experiment” shows that not teaching one subject to mastery before throwing another on the pile is a huge mistake.

It starts in kindergarten…take a look at the ridiculous, inappropriate curriculum kindergartners are to learn…it is NOT anything even related to brain-based learning and research.

The reason why Singapore, among other countries, is showing us up? They have a much more logical approach. Teach one subject to mastery. Instead of 28 math topics in one year, teach 10, but master them!

NCLB also mandates that schools show a 10% increase each year to hold on to AYP. Well, once you hit a certain number (think high 90%) ten percent is almost impossible.

Additionally, schools can-and do fail-for things that our beyond their control-such as attendance! Sub-groups can make or break a school. If everyone in a school who is in reg. ed. passes a test…and just ONE too many special ed kids-kids who probably shouldn’t be taking the grade level test anyway-fail, the entire school fails.

if everyone in the school passes the test, and a subgroup has one too many absences? Again, the school fails.

NCLB did set schools and teachers up for failure.

it is time to get back to the basics. Kindergarteners need to know how to count; not how to tell time, write five sentences, and read 225 words before they move on to first grade. They are no longer taught how to hold pencils or form letters properly.

Small motor coordination? phhht. who needs it, right? However, the number of OT cases dealing with kids with horrific small motor problems has jumped exponentially.

And…socioeconomics does play a huge part, despite what old Dr. No says. Has he ever taught in a school at the lower end of the economic spectrum? I have. Those kids are rarely exposed to much other than re-runs of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich. Children who come from homes with educated parents DO have more books in their homes; are exposed to more enriching activities.

There’s no disputing that. And,t here’s no disputing that those children do have a leg-up once they enter classrooms. The poorer children have to come from behind on day one.

Having taught in both types of schools/neighborhoods over my 25 yr career, I can attest-it’s REAL. Poor kids come to school with different concerns-they are hungry (many only eat at school), they may be worried about going home alone. Unless Maslow’s hierarchy is taken care of? They will NOT learn. They CAN’T, but it is a bigger struggle, because their basic needs of food, shelter, and safety must be met first…

All children can learn. Will all be on grade level by 2014 (NCLB’s stated goal)? HELL NO! That’s not realistic, and not even appropriate.

As the mother of a dyslexic child, I realize…my child will never be on grade level…but functions perfectly well, and was able to graduate-without special considerations (just a LOT of hard work)…and is a functioning, productive member of society.

Fix the curriculum. Realign the standards. Stop using high-stakes, one-day testing as the barometer for assessing students’ learning. Stop making draconian decisions based on these tests..and people who are afraid will stop cheating–but you will be able to pick out the ineffective.

Additionally, “tenured” teachers-or any other ineffective teacher CAN be fired. It takes effort on the part of administrators, but I’ve seen it first hand where I work. The proper steps were followed, and with enough evidence, the teacher was told, “you are being non-renewed.” boom.


September 16th, 2011
8:31 am

Poor, poor disadvantaged me. We had no plumbing in the house, we had no TV or ‘phones, heating and cooking depended on wood-burning stoves, no air conditioning, no paved roads, no cars, no public transportation and the public schools had coal burning furnaces with windows up in the summertime for an occasional breeze. But somehow, I managed A+ grades through grammer and high school. I have to confess though, I had a mom and dad that cared for me, I had grandparents that cared for me and the teachers were held in high esteem and when a student was punished at school, they were again punished at home. It doesn’t take an expert to understand what’s happened in our schools and blaming the system and the teachers is not going to correct the situration. A child’s academic and social education begins at home. If a child is born into a drug infested, unloving one-parent home, chances for his or her becoming a productive, law-abiding citizen is almost zero.


September 16th, 2011
8:42 am

wow ; what would pass for an article??? research on if poor kids can learn… lmao

i could have saved you a lot of time on that one bud…. hey, DA every child can learn; what the schools have to do is provide a clean; well discplined enviroment for the child

next, offer classes that would promote the child’s talents unlike the one size fits all track here in the state of GA

I was recently at a meeting where the person that lead the meeting has a PHD and the first words out of her mouth was “I don’t know anything about math, but I’m gonna show you how to teach it better”

that the kind of BS teachers are having to put up with and now this guy writes drivel about poor kids, no wonder so much money is wasted


September 16th, 2011
8:48 am

IE2 in Gwinnett reinforces the low expectations that children of color and students with disabilities cannot and are not expected to do as well as their Caucasian and “typical” peers. Could there be anything bolder than a district gaining freedom from state law by creating a policy that reinforces low expectations ?

Damned if You Do / Damned if You Don't

September 16th, 2011
8:56 am

@ Dr. No

You do not understand, APS teachers were forced to cheat. Low scores = termination. Cheating = possiblility of termination, if caught.

Easy for arrogant working people to say shame on the cheaters.

Mom of an APS teacher.


September 16th, 2011
9:16 am

I am not surprised this blog back to repeating the same corporate school reform arguments. No one has ever said the poor kids cannot learn, but on average they do enter school with extreme deficiencies in language, reasoning, and critical thinking skills compared to their middle-class counterparts. Kipp and other charters playing the achievement-gap hustle with all other of their data-driven and jury rigged research fair no better than public schools at remedying this problem. This is just another attempt to divert the problems towards teachers instead of dealing with the real systemic problems facing poor communities.

Jan Kemp

September 16th, 2011
9:31 am

Just re-read “The Bell Curve” and “Not out of Africa”…. scary!

Double Zero Eight

September 16th, 2011
9:36 am

Income has nothing to do with the ability to learn.
We have all heard of individuals that came from
“dirt poor” families that went on to become scholars
and leaders. The key is parental involvement There is
no magic wand to be waived by educators that can compensate
for the lack thereof.

Anyone that does not believe that widespread cheating has occurred
throughout Georgia since 1999 is naive. If it was possible to give
educators a polygraph to encompass that period, the cheaters
would number in the thousands.

November 6, 2012

September 16th, 2011
9:41 am

You know, we used to have a great educational model in this “Great Country of Ours, the USA”……the model was……”teachers teach and students learn”. Politics was not a part of it; however, we’ve gotten away from that model, the model that actually worked, instead we’re now modeling our educational systems for the purpose of gaining political power and ensuring that everything we do is politically correct. We’ve always had cheating and that will never go away; however, that cheating was done by students not by teachers. The USDOE has strangled our school systems with unnecessary and just downright stupid regulations that encourages cheating because of their utopian goals…….every student passes and every school is the perfect school. That’s just downright silly and an impossible goal to reach, thus we have cheating by administrators and teachers to achieve those impossible to reach goals. Each state should have the right to administer their educational systems without the federal government sticking their nose where it don’t belong. Our goal should be to dismantle the US Department of Education and place Arne Duncan where he belongs…… the unemployment line. “States Rights Forever”


September 16th, 2011
9:45 am

“Forcing one to cheat” is now an excuse? So I disagree with that premise and now I’m arrogant? Unbelievable! Note to Mother of APS teacher…. please bone up on this subject: ETHICS! Your “peoples” need it! Not only termination for the cheaters… but criminal charges as well, and revocation of their teaching licenses!

To Damned from Good Mother

September 16th, 2011
10:04 am

You write: “You do not understand, APS teachers were forced to cheat. Low scores = termination. Cheating = possiblility of termination, if caught. ” Easy for arrogant working people to say shame on the cheaters.

Mom of an APS teacher.

You got it all wrong, Mom of APS teacher. Your equation is incorrect.

Here is the correct one:

Cheating = always wrong, immoral, unethical.

Cheat=get caught, go to jail, lose your teaching certfication, bring shame on family, friends, neighbors and rob children of an education.

If your child is a cheater and hasn’t been caught, just wait. There is plenty of evidence of cheating with no confessions. The entity that certifies teachers is still waiting. In their words, someone will get mad at somebody and then the truth will come out.

Justice is sometimes slow but it is steady.

…and you better believe there will be parents like me on the lookout for cheating teachers.

Kudos to the AJC for investigative reporting on this issue.


September 16th, 2011
10:18 am

As an older worker, I’ve noticed over the last ten years that the various e-mails received at work from younger, college educated co-workers, are more and more filled with bad grammar and spelling. The quality of their work is not so good either. And we wonder why we’re falling behind other countries in productivity and other areas. If you cheat your way thru college you will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. Unfortunately, you cause us to reap that same whirlwind also.


September 16th, 2011
10:29 am

Sadly, today’s publich schools-at least in my experience teaching in DCSS and talking to teachers in APS-do not appear to think that all kids can learn. Why else would you promote packaged curricula, the implementation of multiple intelligences, and a no-zero policy? You dont’ have this educational and intellectual suffocation in AP classes-the rigorous classes Dekalb claims all students should have experience taking.


September 16th, 2011
10:35 am

I am so sick of the “It Takes a Village” mantra to make up for poor parenting. It takes good parenting and birth control if you do not want to be a parent.

Walter Little, Jr.

September 16th, 2011
11:14 am

Cheating = always wrong, immoral, unethical

I agree with this equation. When I was in school – both on the elementary and high school level – I was deathly afraid of even being accused of cheating . . . much less actually doing it. I hope that all parties involved in the APS fiasco (students included) will learn from this.

William Casey

September 16th, 2011
11:46 am

Learning is a difficult human activity. Real learning begins with expectations AND motivation. It’s NOT all about money (family income or school spending) but money does provide opportunities. The most important gift my parents gave my sisters and I was the unspoken expectation that we would all graduate from college AND do well whatever we chose as our life’s work. Nobody in our family was ever previously a college graduate but my Dad’s example caught my attention. His schooling at Brown was interrupted in 1942 by WW II. At age 37 (in 1957) he returned to school at Georgia Tech to get his degree in industrial engineering while working to support our family. The burden was too great and he never finished the degree. However, his example SHOWED his children the importance of learning. Mom did her part by being the organizer and task master. Many fine teachers (Charles Bowen, Kip Carter, Ed Neal, Gordon Finnie, Mel Steely, to name only a few) provided motivation by imbuing me with a love for learning and the willingness to work hard to achieve it. This isn’t just a “college thing” (though it was for us.) High expectations and motivations are the key in ALL human endeavors. No educational bureaucracy can provide all that. ALL children CAN learn. But no amount of money or testing system can provide the magic spark that is “love of learning” and the drive to “do something well.”

@ Mom of APS teacher

September 16th, 2011
12:28 pm

For most of the APS under achieving children at issue, AYP should not be the goal for staff evaluation. This target is unrealistic and stands as an inducement, forcing administrators to compel teachers into cheating.

Until the metrics of AYP are eliminated or significantly restructured, expect ever more devious means in “reaching” annual goals.

Considering APS’s “No Excuses” mantra for students not meeting performance targets, one would be delusional not to expect a continuation of systemic cheating. It is too deeply imbedded in its culture.

Jerry Eads

September 16th, 2011
12:31 pm

Robert Maranto, sadly, not only misrepresents the positions taken by Fairtest and Deb Meier (neither actually condones cheating, as he implies), but takes the same stance as so many minimum competency (sometimes passed off as “high standards”) driven policy-makers. He uses the same “All children can learn” simplification that tempts less informed individuals to assume that “All children should learn the same amount the same way at the same time.”

Any teacher – and we hope Maranto – knows nothing could be further from the truth. The student who was born three weeks prematurely, has been lead-poisoned from his low-income housing plumbing, and has never been read to by his mostly absentee father is going to have a much tougher road than the child born with good prenatal and pediatric care to a middle-income well-educated family. OF COURSE the child “can learn.” How misleading and irresponsible to even suggest that good teachers think otherwise. BUT: that child may learn very differently and at a very different rate than the other. AND the child might NOT learn to bubble in a sufficient number of responses to the arbitrary single end of year test to “pass,” even if the teacher has done a truly phenomenal job with that student that year. None of this is to say that all teachers are as good as they should be, or that there aren’t those who underestimate the capabilities of some children. And none of this is to excuse cheating, but to point out the desperation that can occur from our egregious accountability policies.

Maranto even has the temerity to toss about the term “grade level.” We all think we know what this means, yet very few of us actually do. “Grade level” is a virtually worthless referent that people think describes what children should know and be able to do at a certain point in a certain grade. It is instead nothing more than a statistical term referring to the middle score on a test. By definition, ONE HALF of the nation’s children are “below grade level” (and above) at any point in their school career. Last time I checked, Lake Woebegon was not in Arkansas. Or Georgia. The sooner we get ourselves away from this confusing and misleading term the better for everyone, especially students.

The “standards” set for minimum competency tests are – and I know most of you don’t want to believe this – are not only arbitrary, but capricious. The process by which the passing “standards” are set is nothing more than gathering a small group of teachers (who are of course thinking about their own students) around a table to decide how many questions on a form of a test kids should get right in order to be deemed “minimally competent” in some content. Different groups decide the “minimally competent” level for different subjects, and different grades. While the overseers do their best in this process called “Modified Angoff” to level things a bit, the fact remains that there is a lot of variability in the pass-level difficulty among subjects in the same grade. NO one thinks about what amount of growth might occur over a year so that the pass-level difficulty in the next grade makes sense compared to the previous year. It’s left to a different group of teachers (who will be from different schools and different districts with different students). How incredibly odd to think that it’s educationally proper for EVERY student to be at or above THE SAME (arbitrary) point in EVERY subject at THE SAME time at EVERY step in the educational process. ANY teacher or ANY parent with more than one child knows better. While we’re at it, no one EVER thinks about how much of what might be provided in this mix to create a successful citizen.

The education policy disaster we’ve suffered the last thirty plus years (this started long before NCLB) may actually be changing, and for the better; I certainly hope so. Although our testing technology is light years short of being good enough to do “value-added” judging of teacher skill, at least we’re thinking about how much a teacher brings to a child rather than whether EVERY child, regardless of their situation and capacity, can (or should) “pass” some arbitrary (and low, not high) “standard.”

With all due respect, in case you couldn’t tell, I disagree rather fervently with Mr. Maranto.

Mountain Man

September 16th, 2011
1:50 pm

Could you imagine going to work tomorrow and being told “if your co-workers don’t increase their productivity by 50% over the next year, you will be fired.” And by the way, you cannot require them to do anything they don’t wish to do. You cannot increase their pay or their benefits. All you can do is persuade them. You are also told you will keep the records of their productivity. You have a wife and two children depending on your salary in these hard to find jobs times. I am sure that each and every one of you will never cheat and will take your eventual firing for not doing the impossible.

Any child CAN learn, but there are some who WILL NOT learn. And that is not the fault of the teacher.

Mountain Man

September 16th, 2011
1:53 pm

Just to make it clear, I agree that cheating is wrong. So why ever put a person in a position to cheat. Why not have independent testers conduct the testing and grading, instead of having the fox watch the henhouse.


September 16th, 2011
1:57 pm

“but, but, but, but”

no matter where you go, someone always has a big but.