I guess you heard the news about Atlanta Public Schools.
Forty-four out of fifty-six schools in the APS system were found to be cheating on standardized test scores, to ensure students passed and schools got remunerated. Pay is attached to student performance, so principals and teachers have incentive to make sure kids score well, even if they don’t really learn anything. The grades were hollow. Now, we have kids passing into higher grades unready for the challenges they face. Dr. Beverly Hall, the superintendent since 1999, put incredible pressure on administrators and faculty to get grades up—so the system appeared healthy to the rest of the nation. According to a report from Governor Nathan Deal, “Dr. Hall created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation that forced teachers to cheat in order to meet standards and which kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct.” Instead, the teachers met and had “Erasure Parties” where they erased wrong answers and put right ones in. Can you imagine what this will do to those students as they enter adulthood unprepared? What a sad commentary on the price adults are willing to pay to survive—even at the expense of the kids.
This next week—I want to unveil the lessons we learn from scandals like this, which happen far too often across the country. One day it may be teachers who cheat kids by passing them on onto the next grade even when they’re failing. Another day, it may be parents who do too much for kids, leaving them unable to do things for themselves; still another day it might be youth workers spending more time entertaining kids instead of equipping them to mature into adulthood. Three truths are crystal clear about so many administrators and faculty of the Atlanta system:
- The focus is me.
Adults were more concerned with themselves than the students.
- The priority is now.
Forget about the negative impact on the future jobs of these kids.
- The goal is survival.
Teachers got caught up in saving their jobs not doing their jobs.
I can hardly wait to dig into the lessons we can learn and the crises we can prevent.
UPDATE: Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post has written an article entitled, “The Most Sickening Part of Atlanta’s Cheating Scandal.” I was honored to be quoted in this article. As this scandal continues to unfold, our Growing Leaders board is actively working to partner with the school district, corporations and community groups to resolve this crisis.