Cheating All Around

The sad guilty verdict in the Atlanta Cheating Scandal is a reminder that the current system of high-stakes testing drives all participants in schooling to their wits' ends -- and beyond. Surely parents want the best for their children, teachers want the best for their students, administrators want the best for their schools, superintendents want the best for their districts. But when it all boils down to a few numbers, and the numbers can, carefully, surreptitiously, and illegally, be changed, it should not surprise us that the temptation to do so becomes irresistible, in some cases.

If this system of widespread and coordinated cheating has a positive outcome, it is to cast a bright light on the desperation of people trying to survive a system that punishes rather than supports struggling.

Since the cheating allegations were made public in 2009, a wider conversation about the nature of testing has increased, and the goals of schooling are as unclear as ever.

Everyone wants children to learn, and everyone wants disadvantaged children to learn just as much as children with all the advantages in the world.

But the bottom line is this: schools are an institution that serves the entire population, and the social inequities are visible there. And the people charged with enacting educational activities cannot compensate for broader inequalities. So, to protect their domain, they cheated.

But what is the educational system in general, and the economic system to which it is attached, doing?

You might say much of that is also cheating.