Friday, July 08, 2011
Atlanta Test Cheating Kills the Canary in the Mine
The recent exposure of cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools gives me an opportunity to address the issue of public education based on my own personal observations. The issue of massive fraud has characterized urban public schools for some time. My generation went into many urban schools with the attitude of helping the poor and bringing knowledge to those in need. We rarely presumed that the problems in urban schools extended beyond the schools themselves. Since then we certainly have learned better.
The rhetoric of “community leaders” and public officials has continued to obscure the root causes of the failures in the public education system. Unlike the Republicans, I do not give much credence to the Republican claim that teachers’ unions are the blame for school failures. The fact is that they really do not do anything that significantly contributes in any way to teacher job security or professional development. The Democratic argument in regards to funding issues, likewise, doesn’t really address the fundamental flaws in public schools.
What becomes obvious here is that it is the cover-up that reveals the lack of integrity of those caught in its web. The lack of integrity begins with students who refuse to prioritize education in their lives and manipulate the various actors to hold themselves blameless. The lack of integrity continues with parents bullying teachers and administrators with “NOT my Johnny” to cover-up their child’s lack of performance at school. The lack of integrity flows to the teachers who are unwilling to speak publicly in regards to the real issues around discipline and student behavior and their disruption of the education process in the classroom. The lack of integrity appears in the principal’s offices when they seek to put a lid on real issues and work overtime to project an illusion of calm to all. School administrators then play politics with failing schools and leave critical gaps in our children’s education. Federal and state Education officials implement new programs to demonstrate their engagement while failing to delineate the basic responsibilities of the general public in the education process.
The business community has been raising the alarm for some time. They have been dismissed out of hand by public officials seeking to flush the system with cash for their constituents. Business people have noticed it because they can’t find qualified applicants to fit into their job requirements. Politicians use rhetoric and posture as if they were really addressing the substantive issues. Parents point their fingers and yell at school board meetings. Teachers picket the state house to protect their unions and their pension plans as they exist. But no real change is forthcoming.
When schools stop getting tagged, we will know that education has become an important function in the lives of young people. When parents start spending more time with their children with homework, we will know that we are on a road to change. When teachers are able to instruct without the chronic interruptions and violence prevalent in urban public schools, we will know that there will be real change comin’ down the road. Let’s not play games with the future of our state and nation. The canary in the mine was choked to death in the Atlanta Public School system. Let’s skip the drama and get to work on what we all know needs to be done.