Click here to go to the Home Page When the Students are Failed - By The Reverend D. D. Prather - Guest Commentator

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In what that is being described as possibly the worst cheating scandal in the history of public education in the country, the City of Atlanta school system�s administrators and educators are now the focus, accused of widespread deception and corruption. BC Question: What will it take to bring Obama home?Georgia Governor Nathan Deal produced in a report, findings contained within volumes of 800 pages, with accusations of system wide cheating throughout schools and the administration of yearly high-stakes testing. It is very clear that the system and the tests, designed to measure educational development, continues to have systemic and fundamental flaws. The reality of the report that saddens me the most is that the majority of the schools and teachers in the allegations are in poverty-stricken areas, and are minorities.

Contained in the Governor�s scathing report, almost 200 employees of the Atlanta School System are implicated in the cheating scandal. Accusations range from providing students with correct answers to having erasure parties at houses to correct such tests. Teachers and others say that an environment of high pressure was created to increase and sustain higher test scores and they are the actual victims. The fact of the matter remains that the real victims who have been cheated are the students of the system and our society at large. The first question to me becomes what and who is really at stake in high-stakes testing?

Be that as it may, the phrase �high stakes� is derived from a gambling term. In gambling, a stake is the quantity of money or other goods that is risked on the outcome of some specific event. A high-stakes game is one in which, in the player�s personal opinion, a quantity of money is being risked. It is interesting to me that monetary bonuses were being given under the guise of an improved school system that I believe contributed to the aforementioned environment of pressure among system employees. I maintain that anytime you associate monetary value to accountability, an atmosphere of dishonesty will be fostered.

The scandal in Atlanta continues to grow and is providing a catalyst for conversations in many school systems and communities across the country that include ethics, morality and the thermometers by which intellectual growth is gauged. The second question then becomes, who are the actual stake holders? In an abundance of caution, I would venture to suggest that a test may be �high-stakes� based on consequences for others beyond the individual test-taker. At the end of any sentence there has got to be some punctuation mark or personal accountability, no pun intended!

What is happening currently in Atlanta places a blemish, perhaps not permanent, on institutions and the concept of public education. An optimist by nature, I suggest that one can always find good, no matter how bad the situation. I am a proud product of the Atlanta Public School system, a host of teachers and a family of educators. I certainly believe that you cannot, �throw the baby out with the bathwater,� and so stands the case with regard to public education. I am therefore optimistic that what is happening in Atlanta will ultimately make public education better for all students around the world in the final analysis and resolution. Perhaps Marion Edelman placed it best, �The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people�s children.� She further pressed that �Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.� Guest Commentator, The Reverend D. D. Prather, is a noted Civil/Social Justice Activist and a native of Atlanta, GA. Click here to contact the Reverend Prather.

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July 21, 2011 - Issue 436
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Est. April 5, 2002
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