Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Racketeering Teachers

The latest and greatest fall out from the stupidity of high stakes testing now has teachers and administrators in Atlanta Georgia sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison serving seven of them behind bars.   Educators were convicted of falsifying test results on Georgia's high stakes testing.  The district attorney charged the school employees with racketeering because the higher test scores earned bonuses for the teachers and administrators. He believed they conspired for financial gain.   The judge in the case urged defense attorneys to come to a deal with the district attorney.  However, to do so, the defendants would have to give up any right to an appeal.  A deal the defendants didn't want to take.  People who took the deals got weekends in jail or a year of home confinement.  

Across the country there have been multiple other cheating scandals with high stakes testing.
In every other situation, the guilty parties have lost licenses to teach, been put on probation and/or lost their jobs.   Only in Georgia have the guilty parties been subject to jail sentences.  Surly these people are not a threat to society so what is the point of putting them in jail.  Doing so wastes taxpayer money and significantly disrupts lives. One of the teachers is due to give birth in July and then she will be sentenced in August.   Did these people do something very wrong?  Absolutely they did.  But does the punishment fit the crime, absolutely not.

In my view the DA is simply being a big bully and the judge is going along for the grandstand ride.  The judge went on a tear about how this act was not a victimless crime and even stated that because the students were passed along from grade to grade without learning what they needed to learn, the kids grew up and landed in jail. That was quite a leap of logic from cheating on one test exam! The tests had nothing to do with passing or failing the grade.  Guess the judge missed that point. If the judge really believes the school system is failing kids, then why not bring the whole system up before the bench to answer for the poor education the kids are getting.   Better yet, how about bringing the legislators before the court for failing to put enough money into the school system.

High stakes testing has been going on for 30 years since the first installment of No Child Left Behind.  Evidence has shown that the U.S. is no further along in improving its education outcomes relative to other countries than it was before we had high stakes testing.  Colleges are doing just as much remedial work as they ever did.  It is wonderful that the district attorney and the judge got to rattle sabers and sound the clarion call for punishing test cheaters.   But surely there are real racketeers in Atlanta.  Maybe it would be good for these tough guys to go after real bad guys.

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