Photo: J. Gunderson (Klonsky). Age 4.
This is the third cloudless day since Anne and I arrived in Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
The first day was a little on the chilly side. Not Chicago chilly. Florida chilly. It is a whole different category of chilly.
Chicago chilly is 50 mile an hour gusts off the Lake and temperatures listed as a number with a “-” in front of it.
Anna Maria Island chilly means putting on a sweater and being undecided about whether to change out of your shorts into long pants after the sun goes down.
The other thing that I notice about Anna Maria Island that is different from Chicago is that the folks here are as white as the sand on the Gulf beaches.
I don’t mean predominantly white. I mean white, as in only white.
This is not your college Spring-break Florida town. This is white family with young kids and older retired folks Florida. A few Gay couples and their kids scattered about Florida. All the cars in the driveway and lights out by ten o’clock Florida.
We fly home tomorrow evening.
The time with the grand kids has been great.
Although I’m a little angry this morning after having just read the full story in the New York Times about the Atlanta test cheating scandal and the indictment of 35 teachers, principals and the superintendent.
The story has been out there for two years. So this is no surprise.
Yet it makes for compelling and repulsive reading.
Somebody posted on Facebook that it read like an episode of the Sopranos.
The investigator flipped a third grade teacher for God’s sake. She wore a wire.
I guess I’m supposed to feel sorry for the teachers who were pressured into being one of “the chosen” who did the erasing.
Some were single moms who were afraid of losing their jobs under the “low score out the door” policy of Superintendent Dr. Hall.
I do and I don’t.
Most of the students affected were poor Black kids. Some of those kids had single moms too, I bet.
Some losses are harder to measure, like the impact on the children in schools where cheating was prevalent. At Parks Middle School, which investigators say was the site of the city’s worst cheating, test scores soared right after the arrival of a new principal, Christopher Waller — who was one of the 35 named in Friday’s indictment.
His first year at Parks, 2005, 86 percent of eighth graders scored proficient in math compared with 24 percent the year before; 78 percent passed the state reading test versus 35 percent the previous year.
The falsified test scores were so high that Parks Middle was no longer classified as a school in need of improvement and, as a result, lost $750,000 in state and federal aid, according to investigators. That money could have been used to give struggling children extra academic support. Stacey Johnson, a Parks teacher, told investigators that she had students in her class who had scored proficient on state tests in previous years but were actually reading on the first-grade level. Cheating masked the deficiencies and skewed the diagnosis.
I’m not saying the teachers who were bullied into cheating should do time.
But nobody seemed to say no.
And that is the crux of the matter.
From President Obama on down. From Arne Duncan on down. From Dr. Hall on down the chain of command. Nobody said no.
Those test scores brought her fame — in 2009, the American Association of School Administrators named her superintendent of the year and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, hosted her at the White House.
Not nearly enough.
And they didn’t follow the conspiracy nearly high enough.