Even the jaded Barometer is stunned by this one.Â Thirty-five folks who were formerly with the Atlanta Public School system have been indicted for the roles they played in perpetuating false test scores for the school children there. One teacher explained that cheating on the standardized tests had been going on for so long that they looked at it as part of their jobs.Â Then there was the fear factor.Â Dr. Beverly Hall, the APS superintendent, gave principals three years to get those scores up.Â If test scores did not improve, they would be replaced.Â In her decade of reigning supreme, she replaced 90 percent of the principals.
However, the tragedy is seeing, through tape recordings made by teachers who wore wires after confessing to investigators, the realization among administrators that there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.Â One who wore a wire for investigators was Milagros Moner, the testing coordinator at an elementary school in Atlanta.Â She confessed that she carried the tests into her principal, Clarietta Davis, who then put on gloves and made the changes necessary to the answer sheets to get the scores she needed to avoid Hall’s wrath and retaliation.Â In a recorded conversation between the two in Ms. Davis’s car in a McDonald’s parking lot, the wire picked up the tragic reality of their fates:
Ms. Moner:Â I can’t eat. I can’t sleep, my kids want to talk to me.Â I ignore them . . . I don’t have the mental energy.
Ms. Davis:Â You wouldn’t believe how people just look at you.Â People you know.
Ms. Moner:Â You feel isolated.
Ms. Davis:Â There’s no one to talk to . . . See how red my eyes are?Â And I’m not a drinking woman. You just have to pray for everybody.
Ms. Davis was one of the 35 who was indicted.Â Wearing gloves whilst changing children’s answer sheets on standardized tests will get you that result.Â And taking a school’s percentage of proficient readers from 24 percent to 78 percent in one year will raise a few statisticians’ eyebrows and bring in the investigators. The charges range from conspiracy to racketeering to theft by taking (the bonuses).
There were 178 teachers, principals, and administrators disciplined. Most lost their jobs.Â Many lost their teaching certificates.Â And the students?Â Well, they are trying to make up for years of lost education.Â That’s a tall order, particularly when their test scores convinced them that they were smart.Â One of the investigators commented that it was sad to see because they seemed to really care about the kids.Â Funny, faking test scores doesn’t seem to be the best way of showing it.Â All are punished, the guilty, the innocent, the indicted, the unindicted co-conspirators, and the kids they cared about.
For more information on the scandal, Michael Winerup, “35 Indicted in Test Scandal at Atlanta Schools,” New York Times, March 30, 2013, p. A1.