Monday, April 1, 2013

The Dark Ages

The retired head of the Atlanta School District, Beverly Hall, has recently been indicted for cheating.

According to the New York Times, some teachers were browbeaten into changing student answers in erasure parties where wrong answers were switched to the right ones.

Thirty-five teachers and administrators have been indicted in the case.

"Every time I play those tapes, I get furious about the way Beverly Hall treated these people," [said Richard Hyde, Georgia state investigator who taped hours of teachers wearing wires.]

Some of the teachers, single parents who feared losing a job--Beverly Hall's unofficial motto was "low score, out the door"--felt unable to resist orders.  Without a doubt, the losers are students and parents who were unsuspecting pawns in the deception.

The Atlanta scandal is only the most egregious of other scandals under investigation across the country.   Some don't even attempt to fudge the numbers.  Lying about student success seems to be accepted practice when the figures don't add up.  The governor of Georgia was under great pressure from the business community to drop his investigation into the scandal.  Business leaders wanted to be able to attract more business to a state with a well-educated population---even if they weren't.

This is the state of education today which lumbers zombie-like on to more testing and accountability under the new Common Core (some estimate tests may take eight to ten hours...) in spite of good science (about what really helps kids, about how testing distorts instruction)  that is currently ignored.

History will mark this the new Dark Age.

In our national experiment on a whole generation of children, two social science truths are now playing out.
  • If you want to motivate people to work harder in intellectual work they need more autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  When our motivation is unhinged from its purpose, we get what Daniel Pink calls "crap." We seem to be getting plenty of that.
  • Secondly, when you use numbers to determine social decision-making, it leads to corruption and a distortion of the social process.  This is known as Campbell's Law.  Duh.  See above examples of how these narrow numerical definitions of success have completely distorted teaching and learning, probably our most social behavior.
I declare this particular education experiment over.

Let's get back to creating a strong, innovative teaching profession.  And stop diverting money into the pockets of test developers.

***Ironic, too, that it looks like we will be throwing teachers and administrators in prison for a failed education/business model while the real Masters of the Universe continue to run an economy over a cliff.


  1. Great points all around, Mary, especially the last one. Where the accountability for the people who ignore the warnings and the predictable negative consequences, and force students and teachers into these untenable situations?

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