Shame in Georgia: More evidence that high-stkes testing invites widespread corruption

Georgia may still be reeling from the eye-popping cheating scandal uncovered this year in Atlanta, but things are getting worse.

The governor’s Special Investigations division has just released a bombshell report detailing systemic corruption in the administration of the state exams; I’ve reprinted most of the overview below. Check out the whole crazy thing here and here.

How can anyone say with a straight face that these are just bad apples and this high-stakes testing regime is the right thing for kids?

(The italics and bold print below are mine. Hat tip to Bob Schaeffer at FairTest for the links.)

The disgraceful situation we found in the Dougherty County School System (DCSS) is a tragedy, sadly illustrated by a comment made by a teacher who said that her fifth grade students could not read, yet did well on the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). This incredible statement from a teacher in a school where the principal flatly refused to cooperate with our investigation is indicative of what we found in many of the schools we visited.

To our amazement, this top-level administrator would not even answer questions about how she mishandled her duties as the person who is most responsible, at that school, for overseeing all testing activity.

Another school principal, whose salary was over $90,000 per year, allowed her family to falsely claim that they were eligible for a federally-funded free lunch each school day, even though official guidelines required the annual income to be no more than $24,089.

Yet another principal, with regard to our interviews, told a teacher:  “Don’t you tell them anything, you hear?”

Notwithstanding these examples of misconduct, there are skilled, dedicated and well-meaning educators in this school system.  But their work is often overshadowed by an acceptance of wrongdoing and a pattern of incompetence that is a blight on the community that will feel its effects for generations to come.   This is the Dougherty County School System.

Hundreds of school children were harmed by extensive cheating in the Dougherty County School System. In 11 schools, 18 educators admitted to cheating.  We found cheating on the 2009 CRCT in all of the schools we examined.  A total of 49 educators were involved in some form of misconduct or failure to perform their duty with regard to this test.

While we did not find that Superintendent Sally Whatley or her senior staff knew that crimes or other misconduct was occurring, they should have known and were ultimately responsible for accurately testing and assessing students in this system.  In that duty, they failed.

The 2009 erasure analysis, and other evidence, suggests that there were far more educators involved in cheating, but a fair analysis of the facts did not allow us to sufficiently establish the identity of every participant.

The statistics, and the individual student data, leave little room for any other reasonable explanation, save for cheating.  For example, the percentage of flagged classrooms for DCSS is ten times higher than the state average.

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