Like millions of parents in America, I send my children to school to continue their education. I use the word continue because I believe that education begins at home, but school offers a more in depth form of instruction. We send our children to school in hopes that they will be well educated, well taken care of, and protected 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week. We entrust teacher's with our most precious gifts, and all we can do is pray that they do not betray our trust. Education is a unique profession given the fact that teachers are given the opportunity to basically shape and mold society by instructing those who represent the future, our children. It is for this reason that I believe that being a teacher is definitely one of, if not the most important job in the world. But it is solely up to the teacher as an individual to be both diligent and responsible enough to recognize how much of an impact they have. Most teachers are honest, hard working professionals, and others are, well...... just not.
In the Atlanta public school system, nearly three dozen former educators, including the ex-superintendent, were indicted Friday in one of the nation's largest test cheating scandals.
Former Superintendent Beverly Hall faced charges including racketeering, false statements and theft because prosecutors said some of the bonuses she received were tied to falsified scores.
Wow, her charges are comparable to those of a made man in the mob. Hall retired just days before a state probe was released in 2011. She has long denied knowing about the cheating or ordering it.
During a news conference this past Friday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard provided examples of two students who demonstrated the plight of many children in the Atlanta school system. He described a third-grader who failed a benchmark exam and received the worst score in her reading class in 2006. The girl was held back, yet when she took a separate assessment test not long after, she passed with flying colors.
This amounts to child abuse, plain and simple. Deliberately depriving a child of a good education is another form of malnutrition because there is a failure to nourish a child's mind.
Howard said the girl's mother, Justina Collins, knew something was was wrong, but was told by school officials that her daughter was simply a good test-taker. But now she is in ninth grade, reading at on fifth-grade level. The victim of the broken Atlanta school system.
"I have a 15-year-old now who is behind in achieving her goal of becoming what she wants to be when she graduates. It's been hard trying to help her catch up," Collins said.
The criminal investigation lasted 21 months and the allegations date back to 2005. In addition to Hall, 34 people were indicted, four high-level administrators, six principals, two assistant principals; six testing coordinators; 14 teachers, a school improvement specialist and a school secretary. A variable motley crew of so called "educators" who conspired to rob children of their education to line their own pockets.
All of the people named in the indictment face conspiracy charges. Other charges in the 65-count indictment include false statements and writings, false swearing, theft and influencing witnesses.
The investigation involved at least 50 schools as well as hundreds of interviews with school administrators, staff, parents and students. There are about 50,000 students in the district
Although Howard would not directly answer a question about whether Hall was the mastermind behind the conspiracy, he did say,
"What we're saying is that without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place," he said. "It would not have taken place if her actions had not made that possible."
Hall faces up to 45 years in prison. If she is found guilty this seems like a fitting sentence.
The tests were the key measure the state used to determine whether it met the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools with good test scores get extra federal dollars to spend in the classroom or on teacher bonuses.
It wasn't immediately clear how much bonus money Hall received. Howard did not say and the amount wasn't mentioned in the indictment.
"Those results were caused by cheating. ... And the money that she received, we are alleging that money was ill-gotten," Howard said.
The previous state investigation in 2011 found cheating by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools. Educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after they were turned in, investigators said. Teachers who tried to report it faced retaliation, creating a culture of "fear and intimidation" in the district.
State schools Superintendent John Barge said last year he believed the state's new accountability system would remove the pressure to cheat on standardized tests because it won't be the sole means by which the state determines student growth. The pressure was part of what some educators in Atlanta Public Schools blamed for their cheating.
Hall served as superintendent for more than a decade, which is rare for an urban schools chief. She was named Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2009 and credited with raising student test scores and graduation rates, particularly among the district's poor and minority students. But the award quickly lost its luster as her district became mired in the scandal.
In a video message to schools staff before she retired, Hall warned that the state investigation launched by former Gov. Sonny Perdue would likely reveal "alarming" behavior. Given the fact that she condoned, urged, and perpetuated the alarming behavior, it is not at all surprising that she would warn her co-conspirators of the turmoil to come via video before she made her getaway into a life of retirement. But what she obviously failed to realize was that she could not retire from the consequences of her dirty deeds, especially not when they involved hurting children. Although the children in her district may not bare any physical scars. They have been bruised by greed, indifference, and ineptitude.