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Cheating Scandals in Schools: A Picture of a Larger Story

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In 2011, I blogged about the largest cheating scandal in our nation’s history, at least in K-12 education, and it was happening in my home city of Atlanta. Recently, we all heard about the court proceedings, charging several defendants, but chiefly Dr. Beverly Hall, the District Superintendent.

One witness, a teacher named Jackie Hyde, told the court she was one of seven instructors nicknamed, “the chosen” who sat in a locked, windowless room every afternoon during the week of statewide testing. They were told to raise students’ scores by erasing wrong answers and making them right.

At first glance, these high test scores might look like a nice “favor” to the students, but think again. Those test scores brought Dr. Hall fame and fortune. In 2009, the American Association of School Administrators named her superintendent of the year and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, hosted her at the White House. She earned over a half a million dollars in performance bonuses too. Not bad.

The New York Times reported recently that state investigators probed for over two years, because everyone noticed a surprising and sudden jump in test scores. “It just seemed too good to be true,” several admitted. Superintendent Hall and 35 other educators were indicted last Friday by a Fulton County Grand Jury. Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.

Our Take Away

Fortunately, I don’t think anyone reading this blog is committing such an atrocity. But while this story is an exaggeration, it is still a picture of something happening all over the country that I am watchful of in my own life.

Sometimes I cheat the kids…as I appear to be helping them.

Those of us who teach, parent, lead, coach and manage young people often do so because we love them. At least, that’s why we got into this “gig.” Eventually however, we often become selfish—and lose our way:

  • We fail to keep the standards we once set for ourselves
  • We grow lax in our emotional investment in students
  • We compromise our values because we’re “tired” today
  • We teach with less passion than we did five years ago
  • We are into self-promotion even if that means pushing kids aside
  • We make things easy for them…when in reality its easier for us
  • We hover over them like a helicopter because it feels good to us
  • We are more about self-interest than keeping their interest in mind

I don’t mean to over-speak. I love so many of you who are fully-invested in building great students and future leaders. But I must confess—I am tempted to cheat them. Because I am lazy, or selfish or into “me”, I may not give my best to them, when they most need it and deserve it.  And every time I don’t give my best to teach or equip them, they get robbed. They become the victims.

Paul L. Howard Jr., the district attorney, said that under Dr. Hall’s leadership, there was “a single-minded purpose, and that is to cheat.”

May that never enter the minds of anyone who watches us lead these students.

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Cheating Scandals in Schools: A Picture of a Larger Story