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

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail