FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Atlanta’s Pitiful Hypocrisy

by DAVID MACARAY

By now most of us have heard the gruesome details of how Atlanta’s elementary and middle school teachers (and principals) conspired to falsify the scores on state proficiency tests.  The investigation not only implicated teachers and administrators, it reached all the way up the ladder to Atlanta’s celebrated district superintendent at the time, one Beverly L. Hall.

Dr. Hall was not only lionized by the media as the savior of Atlanta’s school system, she was named superintendent of the year by the American Association of School Administrators, she was invited to the White House by Secretary of Labor Arne Duncan, and she received more than $500,000 in performance bonuses.  While those first three things now qualify as embarrassments, that $500,000 is being treated as a felony.

The level of cheating (not to mention the audacity and nonchalance with which it was done) was mind-boggling.  Teachers raised scores a whole magnitude at a time by simply erasing wrong answers and replacing them with right ones.

Apparently, teachers got together after school in little groups (with full approval of their principals), and set about re-discovering America, believing there was no way they’d get caught.  After all, who really wanted to catch them?  Who wanted to ruin a good thing?  As long as the test scores were top-notch, no one asked questions.

According to investigators, Atlanta’s Parks Middle School was one of the most flagrant cheaters.  Its scores began to improve immediately after the new principal, Christopher Waller, arrived on the job. During Waller’s first year (2005), math scores went from 24-percent proficiency to 86-percent proficiency, and reading scores went from 35-percent to 78-percent.

Any educator in the country will tell you that proficiency improvements as dramatic as these are scarcer than hen’s teeth, and that when they do occur, they usually take decades to reach those numbers.  Yet Parks Middle School managed to pull it off in what—one year?  Really?  A complete reversal in one single year?  And yet no one bothered to investigate?  The hypocrisy was suffocating.

Actually, some people did notice.  Teachers noticed.  Teachers in other districts, other states and other geographical regions noticed.  The LAUSD teachers union and Randi Weingarten, president of the National Education Association (NEA), noticed.  In fact, union teachers not only noticed, they tried desperately to expose it, but no one listened to them because they were too busy gushing over Atlanta’s “miracle,” and because they thought the unions were acting out of jealousy or spite.

Why were teachers unions the first to go berserk?  Because teachers have the most skin in the game.  Union teachers are under attack by two alliances posing as “education reformers.”  One is Republican conservatives who hate organized labor for siding with the Democrats and want to see the unions (all unions, not just the teachers) dismantled, and the other of is a cartel of sharp-eyed entrepreneurs looking to privatize America’s public school system.

But you can’t fool teachers.  They instantly saw Atlanta’s wildly inflated scores for what they were—a bogus, public relations canard meant to appease citizens and business groups.  You can fool outsiders and amateurs, but you can’t often fool people on the inside, professional people who know what they’re doing.  There’s a perfect analogy to the Atlanta cheating debacle: steroids in baseball.

For years, baseball players knew (or strongly suspected) something wasn’t kosher.  For one thing, too many guys were showing up in spring training way bulkier than before; for another, you had banjo hitters doing their impersonation of Babe Ruth.  It’s one thing for a player to have a break-out year, but it’s a whole other deal for a veteran contact hitter to show up heavily muscled, recast as a power hitter.

Players know who’s juiced and who isn’t.  The owners and GMs may not know, and the fans, sports writers and commentators may not know, but the players know.  Just like the teachers know who’s cheating.  No school goes from 24-percent proficiency to 86-percent in one year, and no baseball player gets better with age.  Okay, there’s Barry Bonds.

While we can’t prove Bonds was juiced, we also can’t deny he put together his five best years from age 35 to age 39.  Or that his body got bulkier, and his head larger, and that he hit 73 homers when he was 36 years old, and had his highest batting average (.370) when he was 37, and his second-highest (.362) when he was 39.  We can’t prove he was chemically altered.  But the only person who’s going to believe he wasn’t juiced is the mayor of Atlanta.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep. dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail