By Matthew Tester, Project Associate.
Dec. 2008: CRCT SCORES SURGE: MIRACLE OR MASQUERADE?
June 2009: STATE PROBE REVEALS CHEATING ON CRCT
Feb. 2010: CRCT SCANDAL STUNS THE STATE
Jan. 2011: ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS PLACED ON PROBATION
July 2011: SCATHING REPORT: APS CHEATING WIDESPREAD
To read headlines in the Atlanta Journal Constitution over the last three years is to be shaken by the downfall of a fundamental civic institution, Atlanta Public Schools. Modest inquiries into statistically-improbable results on end-of-year tests at a few schools have exploded into a chaotic bombshell of a national scandal engulfing the entire system. APS has been put on probation by its accrediting agency, educators are facing criminal charges, the Board is fractured beyond repair, and everyone is desperate to assign blame. As an Atlanta resident with a young child, you can count me among those with indignation burning in their ears.
But pursuing Justice is not the same as determining guilt, and, in this case, doing the latter without the former won’t make me sleep any better. The superintendent, the educators, the Board, and the national education system have all received their share of blame as the story has developed. Seems appropriate. But justice is more complicated, and requires some measure of self-awareness. As economic development practitioners, we have to read this (like, well….everything) as, in part, an economic development story. And attempting to wrap one’s head around the tangled web that is holistic economic development can be maddening. If anyone ever tells you they have it licked, just walk away – they’re selling you a bill of goods.
Parents are justified in demanding that schools challenge and advance their children. Property owners are justified in wanting home values to increase. The business community is justified in expecting the school system to perform with excellence. Administrators are justified in expecting teachers to do their jobs well. Teachers are justified in wanting to keep their jobs. The United States is justified in working toward a competitive national workforce. But all these parties are complicit when their interests are elevated above the authentic betterment of young people. This seems to be the story in Atlanta, and I hope we recognize that it’s a story about all of us.
Now I understand why things like the Consumer Confidence Index matter so much – it’s a bellwether and a determinant. Confidence in public schools today is much the same. It both reflects and predicts the decisions of residents and businesses. It must be nurtured through genuine and demonstrable successes, or it will work against community. Another headline proves the point:
Feb. 2010: CRCT FLAP MARS STATE BUSINESS: COMPANIES VIEW CHEATING SCANDAL AS BAD QUALITY-OF-LIFE INDICATOR