When a news story would disgust my grandmother she would refer to it as being a "shame and a disgrace." This is the least we can say about the profound mess that is the Atlanta Public Schools system. Riddled with scandal and poorly performing teachers, there is a generation of students whose future is at stake because of the wild antics of adults.
To start, there are dozens of school employees who are suspected of changing standardized test answers to improve scores for schools in the name of helping children. The cheating scandal involved the scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests at 58 Atlanta elementary and middle schools, and the adults involved are facing criminal charges.
There are also problems with the group leading the schools, the Atlanta Board of Education, which is poisoned with factions, infighting, and coups. Dr. Beverly L. Hall, who has been with the school district for 11 years as superintendent and was named the 2009 Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators, finally announced her resignation from her $340,000 job last month amid the scandal and financial losses for the district.
To make matters worse, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the district's regional accreditation agency, is visiting the Atlanta Public Schools to access whether or not the nine-member board can effectively govern the district and remain accredited. If the district loses its accreditation it will render hundreds of student's high school diplomas essentially useless for college admissions.
To add to the circus, the Atlanta Concerned Black Clergy coalition recently held a press conference pleading for educators charged in the cheating scandal to be pardoned on racial grounds. If you watch the video it seems as if the clergy are suggesting that white racism is the root cause of the scandal and may be the reason why the school district is under attack. Maureen Downey of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that the Concerned Black Clergy's president, the Rev. Richard Cobble, in fact believes the cheating investigation smacks of racism, explaining, "Cheating on tests is one of the means in which the system designed to keep us unfocused, to keep us distracted and keep us at each other throats." Did racism and test score disparities really cause the teachers to change test answers? What confuses me is why the clergy coalition is not championing truth, integrity, and justice by challenging adult behavior within the school district.
Atlanta's next school superintendent will be walking into real chaos. For the sake of the nearly 50,000 children who's futures are on the line we can only hope that many tough decisions will be made, including the removal of adults who are doing more to sabotage children than to help them.