Despite all the cheering on the blog that APS administrators are now facing justice for their roles in the CRCT cheating scandal, an unresolved issue remains: Why was there so much cheating in APS? (And elsewhere in the country, as uncovered by a later AJC investigation?)
The Georgia CRCTs are not difficult tests. Why was it so difficult to get APS students to score in acceptable ranges?
The indictments in the APS cheating scandal bring us back to the national quandary of how to raise the achievement level of students who historically were never expected to do well, were accorded fewer resources with which to do well, had the most inexperienced teachers and came from homes that lacked the social capital to assist them in school.
The cheating at APS occurred in the schools with the least advantaged populations.
When she came to Atlanta, Beverly Hall said she wanted teachers who believed poor children could do well. (Interesting side point here is that Hall wanted to fire many more teachers than she ultimately could after Gov. Sonny Perdue was elected and immediately restored the teacher job protections — often described as “tenure” — that his predecessor Roy Barnes had removed. A few weeks ago, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, D-Atlanta told me and other AJC reporters, “Removing tenure entirely was wrong, but putting it back entirely was wrong, too.”)
APS invested heavily in teacher training. It created special teams of highly rated or master teachers to counsel struggling classroom colleagues. It offered after-school programs. It won millions in grants to enhance math education.
Did any of those reforms work? There are lots of APS grads — even from high poverty schools — attending and graduating top colleges, so clearly some kids received good educations.
Why didn’t more of them?
APS school chief Beverly Hall often cited the “tyranny of low expectations” for holding back inner city kids.
But is there an opposite and equally damaging tyranny — holding students and their teachers to unrealistically high standards?
When APS schools made their targets, the bar was raised higher for the next year. Was that a mistake? Should schools be allowed to go into holding patterns rather than be expected to outpace their previous year’s accomplishments?
Many people maintain that high-stakes tests are not a fair way to measure schools. Are more subjective models better yardsticks? Are classroom grades enough to assess a student and a school?
In some places, including Georgia, student performance as measured by test scores or portfolios now counts for up to half a teacher’s evaluation rating. Student performance — however measured — will now determine whether a teacher and school is deemed effective.
Will this lead to more cheating?
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog