A new scandal involving all levels of the education system in Atlanta, Georgia has opened up the issue of incentives, bonuses, and pay merits for teachers based on test results and aptitude scores. On July 5th, an investigation blew wide open the inherent corruptness of the Atlanta education system, and the widespread cheating at all levels of administration because of policies that reward test scores over sound educational learning.
The report on the Atlanta Public Schools, released Tuesday, indicates a “widespread” conspiracy by teachers, principals and administrators to fix answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), punish whistle-blowers, and hide improprieties.
It “confirms our worst fears,” says Mayor Kasim Reed. “There is no doubt that systemic cheating occurred on a widespread basis in the school system.” The news is “absolutely devastating,” said Brenda Muhammad, chairwoman of the Atlanta school board. “It’s our children. You just don’t cheat children.” – Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo
Teaching used to be a profession based on love and the desire to instruct young children on the basic fundamentals of eduction. Like nursing, qualified professionals at one time held the ideal of their vocation above the pay and perks that they could have received if working in another field. An example of this comes from the highly acclaimed, and real life story, Stand and Deliver, where computer scientist Jaime Escalante chose to quit his corporate job and instead, teach mathematics in the barrio sections of Los Angeles. Not only did he surpass all expectations for the students, and the school, but he did so when everyone was against him in his belief that children could succeed if instructed correctly, and be held accountable.
During the 1950’s when school systems were still segregated, the majority of African-Americans who received a college Degree became teachers in their local communities. Education was the method to overcome racism and discrimination, and it was pushed as a foundation by many of the activists and leaders during that time. It was not about money to these teachers 60 years ago, but about the power that comes through knowledge and education.
Today, our school systems in America have grown in scope by 200% in the last 30 years, and education spending by the government is well into the hundreds of billions. However, literacy, test scores, and aptitude results has fallen since that time, and the United States is no longer in the top 10 worldwide in math or science. After 30 years, the statistics show that additional money does not equate to better education.
Between 1984 and 2004, real expenditures per pupil increased by 49 percent. These increases follow the historical trend of ever-increasing real per-student expenditures in the nation’s public schools. In fact, the per-pupil expenditures in 1970-1971 ($4,060) were less than half of per-pupil expenditures in 2005-2006 ($9,266) after adjusting for inflation. – Heritage.org
Unfortunately, the art of teaching has become the business of teaching. Labor union activity, such as we saw recently in Wisconsin where salaries and benefits for most teachers has reached well over $100,000 a year, is of greater importance to many over the actual teaching of students.
It is not surprising that Federal mandates like No Child Left Behind has helped create the corruption and drive to improve dwindling test scores by any means necessary. When the government made test based incentives and bonuses the norm over merit based pay, teachers and administrators were left with few options.
The inherent problem in the scandal that is rocking the Atlanta education system is not one that has occurred over the course of one or two years, but instead, it has occurred over a long period of time. As the Federal government uses money, incentives, and the livelihood of both teachers and schools to try to improve education not on literacy, but on test scores only, then the test scores will be the baseline teachers focus on, and cast aside the older proven methods of fundamental learning.