Thursday, April 23, 2015

Guest Post : Atlanta 12

This is a response to all the people—from judges to journalists and everyone in between-- jabbering about the Atlanta 12 being responsible for hundreds or thousands of Atlanta's students failing school due to their CRCT answers being changed by adults who should have known better.


If guilty, the Atlanta 12 committed two “crimes”: cowardice and greed. The cowardice was nutured by fears of job loss, poor performance reviews, or loss of reputation; greed was enhanced by a monetary reward system tied to student performance on the CRCTs.  But good people do not succumb to the easy lures of promotion and money. So they are guilty as charged. But to credit these dozen educators with the dismal failures and poor performances of the public school system is neither justified nor sensical.

One test, administered over one to three school days per year, does not determine a child's success. As an indicator of what the child needs academically, it is second-rate at best. That's why you have teachers in a classroom. Otherwise, save us all time and money and put kids at computers. Some of the convicted educators never spent a single day in the classroom of some of the students whose poor education has been labeled their fault—all because they changed CRCT answer sheets.

School years approximate 180 days. Who allowed these children to spend a year or more making little/no forward progress? Who promoted these students to the next grade? What have classroom teachers been told to do with students incapable of doing grade-level work?

The fact that someone changed answers on a 5th grader's CRCT exam does NOT explain why the 5th grader was promoted 4 times (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade) and still can't read. A CRCT scores does not explain why an 8th grader can't multiply or solve a simple math problem. And if a parent or teacher needs a CRCT score to know this about the child, no one is doing the job.

Assume that classroom teachers have college degrees and educational training. The CRCT is given during the last quarter of the school year. Is it really the first time teachers (or parents) realize their children are not performing? If so, why? A good teacher can identify an illiterate student in a time frame between 5 minutes and 5 days. Why are CRCT results then such a big deal?

The argument that a poor showing would signal the need for remediation and help is silly. A teacher and a parent should know those signs because they see them every single day. These kids are not suffering because they were denied help because they did poorly on the CRCT but the cheating covered this up. These kids suffer due to poverty, poor parenting, horrible living conditions, undiagnosed conditions that hamper learning, and a generations-long community attitude that gives education a very low priority.

In the famous story “The Emperor's New Clothes,” an entire village jumps on a bandwagon led by two schemers who make “invisible clothes of such refinement and quality” that their work is never questioned. Commissioned by the emperor, they become rich, sewing things that were not really there. When the emperor parades through town to show off his new wardrobe, villagers “ooh” and “aaah” until one small boy summons the courage to shout, “He's naked. The Emperor is naked.”

Georgia public schools need a hero like that little boy—someone with the courage to shout out loud the real reasons students are failing to reach their potential. The Emperor needs some real clothes.