Cheating on standardized tests: wrong, but not organized crime

MellaneoussquareA judge sentenced Atlanta school educators to prison for racketeering? The Atlanta teacher cheating fiasco is an example of the system coming full circle.

A system that never really wanted to educate Black children beginning with the early laws against educating slaves, to so-called separate but equal school houses, to the present-day oxymoronic No Child Left Behind (except colored and poor children) is now hypocritically punishing Atlanta Black educators who were literally set up to cheat.

Incidentally, the whole standardized testing mess was created last century by racists. That’s right, the early makers of these tests were adherents to racist pseudo-science “eugenics,” the idea that humanity has to weed out inferior species. Look it up!

The irony in all of this is just stunning. In the U.S. the school systems in inner cities are not set up to allow for successful instruction, but are for all practical purposes, warehouses that hold many of these young people until they are claimed by jail, early death, unemployment, careers in low-wage jobs or just frustration. And to be fair, there are teachers — human beings that are putting forth Hulk-like, superhuman effort — to make sure these kids get some kind of education.

Too many of these schools have children who are coming from broken homes, sometimes no homes at all, badly educated parents, imprisoned parents, parents with little time for anything but making a living and/or stark poverty that no one can be expected to overcome. Many come to school with a little bit of the indoctrination that school will definitely teach them — whether it’s in Beverly Hills or Harlem — you and your kind ain’t sh*t, ain’t never been sh*t and ain’t ever gonna be sh*t.’

Arresting and imprisoning teachers and administrators is icing on the cake. Black kids can’t learn, they say, so they try to make it come true by putting every obstacle in their way and doing nothing to address the barriers that make learning for some inner city school children difficult.

Then they impose standards that they know are nearly impossible to achieve and thus put unrealistic pressure on teachers and administrators to hit a mark they can’t hit (at least not under the present limitations). When the kids miss this fabricated mark they feel even worst about themselves.

While it’s quite possible that the District Superintendent Hall and some of her administrators realized that good test scores would be financially enriching, the cheating scandal had little to do with self-gain or self-aggrandizement, but was simply about trying to keep up with unreasonable requirements.

“They didn’t see the value in the test, so they didn’t see that they were devaluing the kids by cheating,” is how one Atlanta lawyer for an accused teacher put it. Emory University graduate Neekisia Jackson, a former student in the Atlanta school district who attended some of the poorer schools in the area, described what it was like after her middle school found out it had passed the standardized test, indicating it had met the federal standard of achievement.

“Everyone was jumping up and down,” Jackson said. “It was like our World Series, our Olympics.” She went on, “We had heard what everyone was saying, ‘Y’all aren’t good enough.’ Now we could finally go to school with our heads held high.”

Should they have cheated? Definitely not. But to be charged with racketeering as if this was some kind of organized crime was ridiculous and downright evil.

If the biggest racketeers of this new century — the Wall Street thugs and mortgage companies that had to be bailed out with our tax dollars — aren’t in jail, then these teachers definitely don’t belong in jail. And if cops can continue to murder Black people with near impunity and seldom go to jail, then these teachers indeed should not have to go to jail.

The self-righteous Atlanta judge Jerry Baxter that sentenced these people to prison is a liar. It wasn’t these administrators that ripped off those kids, it was a system that decided to use a culturally biased, rigged test as the primary determiner of the intelligence and capability and potential of human beings.

This system has once again used its laws to reinforce the idea of Black incompetence, Black ineptitude and Black immorality. Failing schools are merely code for failing Black, brown, red and poor folks.

Whoever heard of failing human beings? Only in the White supremacist, capitalist good ole USA.

Justice, then peace.


Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to