Manipulation of education

William T. Robinson, Jr.

In a time when school districts are under attack for failure to show improvement in state standardized testing scores, it should be of no surprise that you might find some shady practices taking place. The latest smoke seems to be coming from the Atlanta urban school district. The former superintendent and a list of other school officials have been indicted on lying and the changing of grades on standardized tests to show improvement in the school district. This was gross deception and manipulation to show fraudulent improvement. Money and several awards were awarded to parties in the form of bonuses attributed to improvements generated by teachers credited with facilitating the rise of their student’s grades.

The question one must ask is what type of pressure is being put on school administrators to make them find ways to skew or manipulate standardized test scores to show overall improvement? School boards and parents are holding school directors accountable, who in turn hold school administrators or principals accountable, who in turn hold teachers accountable. It’s all about passing the buck and holding others accountable with noticeable consequences, for the most part, falling on the teachers. Many principals (who are given a short time to bring about a noticeable positive change in test scores) feel that pressuring or even bullying teachers is the answer. They threaten teachers with dismissal if desired results are not met. Thus you see a shifting of teachers or even principals from one school to another, much like a chess game. And they may even be totally dismissed. Ironically, with all the money being spent on studies and consultants it seems the problem only tend to escalate. Out of unyielding pressure to raise test scores, some schools districts out of desperation utilize deceptive and fraudulent practices to manifest a false perception of success. Some schools have sought to eliminate low achieving or academically impaired students from their schools. Many would argue that with the emphasis to pass these standardized tests, the tests alone are being taught—and not much effort is being made to engage the students in basic fundamental learning or promoting independent critical thinking skills.

There is enough blame to go around finding scapegoats to chastise. However, one must be a fool if they think the skewing and fraudulent recording of standardized testing scores is not prevalent nationally. In fact it has been reported that at least 196 districts throughout the country have unprecedented rises in test scores similar to those fraudulently found in the Atlanta, Georgia urban school district. Our public school system is faltering, and it seems many are throwing gasoline on a prevailing fire.

One can’t dismiss that education is big money, and that some subsidiaries are getting paid.  Lobbyists are working in their own best interests, which may not be in the best interest of our children. Schools with a more multicultural curriculum are needed, especially for children of African American descent. A committee of seasoned teachers should be used to come up with solutions—not some group of newly educated intellectuals with little or no classroom experience (especially for children from urban economically disadvantaged schools).

An extensive corrective or disciplinary department or team should be developed in some schools to provide an in depth analysis of learning and behavioral problems to help eliminate or correct problems—not just offer a band-aid approach. Utilizing volunteer elderly resources from within the community in the form of time and mentorship should be a priority. We need a more realistic approach including a holistic relationship in which all parties (community, principal, teachers, parents and children are vested). Improprieties in Atlanta may be a wake up for some—or a revelation of standard practice for many districts operating out of desperation.