Performance anxiety

Economist – by MSLJ

CONVICTED of racketeering, 11 educators were handcuffed on April 1st for their roles in a cheating scandal within Atlanta’s public schools (APS) that stretches back to 2001. The criminal investigation that led to the beginning of the trial last August involved more than 50 schools and hundreds of interviews with pupils, parents and staff. One teacher was acquitted.

And how did it all begin? Suspiciously high scores on the Criterion-Reference Competency Test, standardised exams that assess competency in maths, English and other skills, prompted first a local newspaper, and then Georgia’s former governor Sonny Perdue, to start asking questions.   

The improved performance of the 50,000 or so pupils who attended APS was indeed remarkable. At Parks Middle School, for example, the share of 13-year-olds who “exceeded expectations” concerning their mathematical ability rose from 1% to 46% in a single year. The head of APS during the period, Beverly Hall, was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in February 2009.

A gubernatorial investigation found in 2011, after looking closely at erasure marks on test sheets, that more than half of Atlanta’s elementary and middle schools contained classrooms with an average number of wrong-to-right corrections more than three standard deviations above the state average. Eyebrows were raised because the chances of such erasures happening randomly is just one in 370.

At least 180 teachers were accused of cheating, of which 82 confessed to taking part. Some gave out answers, others changed them or let less able children copy from smarter ones on the sly. A grand jury indicted 35 teachers in March 2013; 21 pleaded guilty and the remainder went to trial—save one educator who passed away, and Ms Hall herself. What pressure she applied to teachers, if any, to ramp up scores will never be known. Too ill to take the stand, Ms Hall died from breast cancer in March.

Arguments made for the defendants suggested that Ms Hall oversaw a culture in which cheating was not only encouraged, but at times demanded of teachers. The risks of such deviance were high, but so too were the risks of allowing pupils to do badly. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools must make “adequate yearly progress” on tests or risk, after two years of poor performances, allowing their charges to study somewhere else. Schools that continue to show no progress could face closure, their teachers fired. Funding and bonuses depended on pupil scores.

But pupils who did better than they should have done on tests did not benefit. Those who would have been eligible for extra help as a consequence of their low scores did not receive it. This presumably affected their education in later years. The conviction of 11 educators will not undo this damage.

4 thoughts on “Performance anxiety

  1. Surprise, surprise. And then we wonder why so many high school graduates can’t read, write, or do arithmetic above the third grade level.

    1. I saw the photos of all of the “convicted” on another web site. They are all black. (just to clarify my statement above)

  2. The naacp petitioned Websters dictionary to change the definition of THAT non PC word and they changed the Websters dictionary’s definition of that word.
    I would like to petition Websters to reinstate the definition to it’s original context. IGNORANT’s synonym is still the same today as it was yesterday or yesteryear and now we have a communist HNIC in Washington. I want to puke as I am disgusted with political correctness, ignorance and dishonesty that has this country in a stranglehold. Ignorance HAS destroyed everything true, righteous and decent in the USA and the world. And let us remember that N A A C P-Niggers Aren’t All Colored People- for example the scumbag GW Bush who makes Obuttmunch look like Einstein. Cheating scumbags!

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