Nearly three dozen former teachers and administrators from the Atlanta Public Schools were named in a 65-count racketeering indictment related to cheating on school tests. A grand jury said the educators participated in a criminal enterprise to inflate students’ test scores.
This morning’s news carried the story of teachers and administrators turning themselves in to law enforcement officials These are searing images.. While the tendency would be to look at this as a “what’s-the-message-it’s-sending-to-children?” story, let’s look look at it as what it says about the stresses of testing in this country.
In many states, teachers professional careers are tied to their students’ test scores. While teachers should be accountable for their work and for the results that show up in their students, using standardized test scores as the main measure of this connection is dreadfully shortsighted. The teacher/student relationship is rich and complicated. Reducing it to a test score limits and demeans this relationship. It frightens teachers, students, parents, administrators and politicians.
We are passing on to our children a culture of fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing a job, fear of not being enough. Fear is a poor substitute for learning, which should be embracing, full of curious exploration and delight in discovery. Teachers marching into a police station to be booked for criminal activity is saying, “We are caught in a cripplingly stressful situation. We need help.”