This article was sent to me via email today. In a nutshell, it discusses an investigation of the Atlanta public schools in which it was discovered there was rampant cheating on standardized tests. They say at least 178 teachers and principals, most of whom have confessed, were involved in the cheating. Here's a quote from the article, "A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, he said in a prepared statement. “There will be consequences,” Mr. Deal said." (Mr. Deal is the governor of Atlanta.) Consequences like dismissals and maybe criminal charges. And, if I may be so bold as to make a bit of a prediction here, teacher bashing. I mean, it's open season on us teachers lately, no?
Granted, these people should not have been cheating. Cheating blows. I hate cheating. I hated dealing with cheating in my classroom. All the long discussions about losing gracefully and being a good sport and blah blah blah...which I totally know is beneficial but really I just wanted to say, "Cheating is a waste of time and energy and it always catches up to you, so just go sit over there and stop playing if you're going to ruin our fun." Whether it's little friends cheating at a math game to win, well, to win nothing, or adults cheating on standardized tests, I think we can all agree it's just wrong.
But just like I had to squelch my desire to simply stick cheaters off to the side and deal with the larger problem, so do these adults responsible for educating Atlanta's youth. We can't just bash the teachers and the principals. (Although clearly many are tempted to grab flaming torches and beat us when we're down.) We have to look at the larger problem. What about this culture of fear that has been created for adults working in schools? What about this obsession with quantitative data and test scores and seemingly nothing else? What about all the studies that negate the usefulness of this data when it is abused as we so love abusing it today? What about all that?
As I sit here typing this blog, I'm almost sick of myself for just engaging in this debate. I am so sick of test scores. I am so sick of the blame. Most of all, I'm so sick of bitching about all of it. (Okay, I secretly love bitching about many things, but even I have my limits.) Instead of continuing to talk and talk and talk about test scores and graphs and standardized tests, why don't we just change the conversation? Yes, I mean us, we, teachers, THE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY HAVE AN IMPACT ON CHILDREN EACH AND EVERY DAY...let's just change it. Stop talking about the tests. Yes, they exist. Yes, they are being abused. Yes, they are out of control. So let's just move on and talk about something else like how we want our classrooms to be run, what we want our little friends to get out of their time with us, what we feel are the true purposes of school and how we can achieve those.
What do you think? Easier said than done? Has the pressure and fear consumed us all?