Albany Herald columnist Carlton Fletcher talked to the mother of a child in the Dougherty County schools about the fallout from the erupting CRCT scandal there and wrote a good piece about the conversation.
As we discussed here six days ago, state investigators issued a scathing report on cheating in Dougherty County schools, writing that there was “an acceptance of wrongdoing and a pattern of incompetence that is a blight on the community that will feel its effects for generations to come. This is the Dougherty County School System. Hundreds of school children were harmed by extensive cheating in the Dougherty County School System. In 11 schools, 18 educators admitted to cheating. We found cheating on the 2009 CRCT in all of the schools we examined. A total of 49 educators were involved in some form of misconduct or failure to perform their duty with regard to this test.
The mother told Fletcher that she was frustrated with the people who see the scandal only through its impact on the adults named in the cheating report. She wanted someone to write about how the allegations of cheating affected the children.
The mom told me a little about her son, about how he doesn’t quite know how to deal with the things he’s hearing about the scandal. Although the bright-eyed youngster was timid about talking with me, he did say one thing that stuck with me.
“People are saying (here, the youngster mentioned the name of one of his teachers) did wrong, that she cheated,” he said in a voice that was halting and quiet. “My mama always told me that cheating is wrong, but I don’t want (teacher) to get in trouble. She just wanted us to do good on our tests.”
Her son’s comments brought tears to the young mom’s eyes. “I think that’s the worst thing about all this,” she said. “The people whose names are in the newspaper and on the television, the people who we trusted to educate our children, they took a shortcut to try and make themselves look better. They were willing to do what they knew was wrong just so they could meet some quota.
“They didn’t think about the little children like my son who idolize them and look to them for guidance. I know it’s not their job to raise my child, but it is their job to reinforce what I’ve tried to teach him. And one of those main things I’ve tried to teach is what’s right and what’s wrong.”
I offered no meaningful response to the woman’s comments. Clearly, she wanted to vent. And, frankly, I didn’t know what to say. I’ve said for years that No Child Left Behind, while good-intentioned, is a flawed standard by which school systems are judged. Among its unintended byproducts is a tendency of teachers to “teach tests” and, apparently, of educators to seek shortcuts to meet what most agree are all but unattainable standards.
But blaming this piece of legislation for unethical and illegal behavior is an example of one of America’s favorite cop-outs and one of its people’s biggest failings: finding a way to point a finger at others for our own shortcomings.
The CRCT scandal has a face for me now. When I listen to some bureaucrat use mumbo-jumbo to try and explain away the action of people who should have known better, I’ll think of this mother and her son, innocents who are left to pay a steep price for others’ betrayal. And I’ll also think, sadly, about the words of a friend who teaches in the school system: They’re only beginning to scratch the surface.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog