Standardized Test Cheating in Atlanta: The Pressures of National Rankings

Beginning in our early elementary years, we are conditioned by state-administered tests to fear failure and conquer competition.

Personally, my first experience with feeling the pressures of testing was introduced in the third-grade during my first Stanford-9 test. I remember the daily announcements before the test that emphasized eating well, sleeping well, and coming to school both focused and determined.

Was I going into battle?

Realistically, I was not being asked to anything courageous. I was simply sitting at a desk for several hours, coloring bubbles with my number 2 pencil.

Metaphorically, I was going into a type of battle. In fact, that number 2 pencil, coupled with my mind, proved to be my only and most useful weapons. These weapons would ultimately stamp me as a number amongst my classmates and trigger my fixation on academic ranking and identity.

Recently, 35 educators in Atlanta are faced with criminal charges after being indicted for the fabrication of their students’ standardized test scores.

Teachers, administrators, principals, and even superintendents must now face the legal ramifications of committing educational fraud—a stigma that will burden Atlanta’s education system for years to come.

According to investigative reports by Georgia attorney general Michael Bowers, educators in the Atlanta Public Schools district have been altering test scores since 2005. In fact, according to similar reports, former Atlanta superintendent, Dr. Beverly L. Hall, created teaching incentives for cheating and even threatened to fire employees for not participating in the deception.

To make matters worse, Dr. Beverly L. Hall is a nationally recognized educator. She has received a “Superintendent of the Year” award in 2009 and was even named a member of the National Board of Education Sciences by President Obama in 2010.

After a thorough investigation, authorities ascertained the inconsistency in Atlanta’s test scores over the past several years and ordered the educators to turn themselves into Fulton County Jail by 10:00 PM on April 2, according to CNN.

According to Truthout, indicted educators face charges of racketeering and theft.

The story may cause some discomfort for you or even make you question the amount of corruption in our education system.

In fact, to many people, public education is one facet of society that should always be trustworthy—let’s not forget, schools are intended for the harboring and shaping of our young members of society.

According to Truthout, FairTest, a test-monitoring group, reports that test cheating is “fully documented” in at least 37 states and Washington D.C.

Perhaps the amount of pressure inherent in these state-administered tests is coming full-circle. In other words, class-rankings are not only affecting students negatively, but educators are also bound to the test-scores as being indicative of their educating-competency.

Also, I believe the pressures that are instilled in students at an impressionable age to be the best, and to carry-on to their adult lives influence their impulse to cheat.

I certainly do not condone cheating and believe that the educators should be punished for cheating; however, let’s at least try to understand the drive behind the educators’ decisions.

Thirteen years after my first Stanford-9 test, I caught myself in a similar bind—the LSAT. I’m happy to say it turned out for the best, but it did not relieve the social burden of being perceived as a number.

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