THE pressure on teachers to help students perform well on state-mandated tests has never been greater. The No Child Left Behind law's requirement of a rising performance bar means states in the past several years have steadily and sometimes dramatically increased what it takes for students to meet academic standards. That's hard work under the best circumstances and far more difficult in some of the country's most challenging classrooms.
Still, shock is the appropriate reaction to the massive cheating scandal in Atlanta and investigations into potential cheating in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In Atlanta, a state investigation into cheating concerns fingered 178 employees in nearly four dozen schools in what's being described as perhaps the largest-ever cheating scandal in public education.
A stream of educators implicated in the report has either left the district or will soon be out the door as the district reacts to the investigation, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The newspaper's inquiry into seemingly impossibly high test scores helped spark the state investigation, which could lead to criminal charges against some involved.
No excuse is enough to even begin to justify the cheating confirmed in Atlanta or any other school district. Whatever punishments might be handed down to administrators or teachers involved, children are by far the biggest losers. The adults should be ashamed.
Children whose schools were caught up in the Atlanta scandal likely will never know exactly how they did on the tests. Worse yet, struggling students may not have gotten extra help they needed because the results were a farce. No wonder the cheating persisted — without systemic, repeated cheating, dramatic one-year spikes in tests would have been an obvious indictment. So over the course of a decade, students were cheated time and again by a system that was supposed to propel them.