Wednesday, April 08, 2015

America is criminalizing Black teachers: Atlanta’s cheating scandal and the racist underbelly of education reform

Apparently Atlanta is a lot like San Diego. When illegal activity happens in a school, local officials handle the issue in two very different ways. When the wrongdoer is an adult with political connections, taxpayer money is poured into that person's defense, and the schools go into cover-up mode. On the other hand, if the wrongdoer has no political connections, the school goes after him or her with a vengeance. The justice system stands ready to support schools and other public entities. You're fighting an uphill battle when you want justice from a pubic entity. See Depraved in Poway and series of posts about shenanigans in Poway.  Adults in San Diego County schools usually misbehave with impunity, but kids who do the same thing are called "depraved." There was an amazing case at Guajome Park Academy where teachers improperly changed grades, but instead of censuring the teacherd, the school sued a whistle-blower kid who hacked the school computer to prove the wrongdoing.

See also my comparison of the Atlanta cheating scandal and the bizarre color-coordinated indictments of school officials in San Diego.

America is criminalizing Black teachers: Atlanta’s cheating scandal and the racist underbelly of education reform
Our educational system stacks the deck against Black children -- now we're throwing their teachers in jail

America is criminalizing Black teachers: Atlanta's cheating scandal and the racist underbelly of education reformFormer Atlanta Public Schools school research team director Tamara Cotman, center, is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Atlanta. (Credit: AP/Kent D. Johnson)
Last week, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 teachers and school administrators of racketeering in a system-wide cheating scandal. Yes, you read that correctly. Teachers and administrators inflating student scores on standardized tests is now considered “organized crime” in this country, and is punishable by more 20 years in prison, in these cases.

I am an educator. I am a Black woman who may someday mother a Black child. I have taught other Black mothers’ children. Much of my educational success in elementary school is directly attributable to high performance on standardized tests that caused my white teachers to notice me and intervene on my behalf to get me “tracked” into higher-achieving classrooms. I believe all children deserve access to a good, high-quality, public education.

Therefore, I don’t have to condone cheating in any form (and I don’t) to assert that what has happened in Atlanta to these teachers is a travesty. The pictures that emerged last week of handcuffed Black schoolteachers being led out of Southern courtrooms in one of the country’s largest urban Black school systems were absolutely heartbreaking.

Scapegoating Black teachers for failing in a system that is designed for Black children, in particular, not to succeed is the real corruption here. Since the early 1990s, we have watched the deprofessionalization of teaching, achieved through the proliferation of “teacher fellow” programs and the massive conservative-led effort to defund public education in major urban areas throughout the country. There is no longer a consensus that a good public education — a hallmark of American democracy — should be considered a public good.

Black children have for generations been the primary victims of this continuing social mendacity about the national value of education. More than 51 percent of children who attend public schools live in poverty. In Georgia, the percentage of Black children living in poverty hovers right around 39 percent. For Latino children, the number is consistently over 40 percent. Nationally, the number for Black children is 39 percent, according to most recent data, and 33 percent for Latino youth...


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