Teachers in handcuffs.

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The images of those Atlanta teachers in handcuffs for the crime of cheating on test data are incredibly upsetting to this career teacher.

On the one hand, they did a terrible thing.

But then there is this.

We have been saying all along that if you set up a massive testing system that uses punishments and rewards – actual punishments and material rewards – based on the results of those tests, then it will corrupt the system.

It will create the conditions for people to do bad things.

This was corruption at its most course.

It included erasing parties organized by the Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall, who died last month of cancer, where groups of teachers sat around a table and changed wrong answers on scantron sheets.

But this was not the corruption that exists at the highest levels.

I will tell you that it was way too unsettling to watch a white southern judge in an Atlanta court room literally screaming at the all-Black teacher defendants and displaying way too much enthusiasm for sending them to jail cells immediately.

I’ve seen plenty of convicted corrupt politicians, and the rare convicted Wall Street tycoon, given plenty of time to get their affairs in order before serving their jail time.

What of the claim that poor Black students were hurt – denied needed services – because of the actions of these teachers?

Perhaps.

But all the evidence says that we have created a two-tier system of education in this country: One for the poor and another for the rich.

Students of color and of poverty are denied equal education every day by a system – a system run by people in high places.

When do they get the handcuffs?

14 thoughts on “Teachers in handcuffs.

  1. The ONLY REAL reason for all this testing is money making for the test companies!! Send THEM to prison along with the paid off (in political contributions and maybe more) politicians!!!

  2. “On the one hand, they did a terrible thing.”

    Did they? I’m struggling with that. I guess I’m a moral relativist, but to me “terrible thing” means people got harmed, and I’m having a really hard time figuring out who was harmed by the cheating. Sure, students were harmed by the testing itself, the test prep and the incessant focus on test scores, but that’s a separate issue from the cheating (in fact, what led to the cheating). Test scores are meaningless anyway and comparisons and evaluations of students, teachers and schools based on those test scores are worse than meaningless – they’re actually harmful. I suppose some schools/teachers that didn’t cheat may have fared worse and therefore been unfairly punished, but any consequences based on test scores are unfair to begin with. I have said many times that if there were a choice between spending the year test prepping vs. cheating and spending the year learning interesting and worthwhile material, I’d take the latter any day. The tragedy of this situation is that they cheated AND spent the year test prepping.

    1. The question I had to ask myself was if I was in that situation, would I have engaged in that action? Would I have changed student answers in exchange for money? I would not. Their’s was not an act of subversive sabotage or protest or intent to undermine the system. They were not acting out of a sense of moral courage. They were acts of low-level corruption engaged in willingly at the direction of their superintendent. Do they deserve jail time? Of course not.

      1. Those teachers were put in a bad situation, they were ORDERED to change the test scores. They could go along to get along with it or lose their job. Also, if all the other classes had higher test scores (because of changing the test answers), then they would be let go for being an ineffective teacher based upon lower test scores. Fired either way.

      2. Oh my, their moral compass must have been a little off..greed is what did it!!!

  3. The more we tolerate a system that allows this to go on unquestioned the sicker our society will become. Education is not a business nor should it be the cash cow for the money grubbing .o1%. How far we have come from “An education is it’s own reward.”

  4. Saying this:

    “I’ve seen plenty of convicted corrupt politicians, and the rare convicted Wall Street tycoon, given plenty of time to get their affairs in order before serving their jail time.”

    does not help your cause or argument. It’s like the kid who hit a classmate, and then when called on the carpet says “well Johnny did it last week and he didn’t get in trouble!”

    You cannot bring up politicians and their issues and compare it to teachers and theirs…..

    I do not disagree with you, but it’s not an argument that is effective.

    1. It does help the argument. The point being made is politicians get off most times with a slap on the hand, Wall street tycoons get a fine for actually hurting people for decades. But teachers are throwing in jail. The point being made is the system is unfair in its treatment of certain crimes.

  5. Anonymous white guy here. Fred, I don’t always agree with you. In fact at times I even think you unnecessarily bash all whites for the wrongs of a few. But this is truly a travesty. Is this judge out of his mind? If anyone should be serving time it’s this judge who should be thrown off the bench and led away in handcuffs. This story seriously breaks my heart.

    1. It is heartbreaking Anonymous white guy. To be clear, I don’t bash all white people for anything. I do bash a system that promotes white supremacy and systematic discrimination based on race. I hope I haven’t confused the two in what I write.

  6. Interesting article about what those teachers in Atlanta went through. It confirms what I thought about the teachers being forced to change test scores being under extreme duress. It also confirmed what I had heard about Unions in the south having very little power under state laws. They are more or less limited to being an “Association” with no right to strike, bargain binding contracts, or represent teachers in grievance proceedings.

    http://thinkprogress.org/education/2011/07/07/262184/atlanta-cheating-scandal-union/

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