Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chavous: Students Must Come First

Today's post comes from AFC's executive counsel Kevin P. Chavous:

One of the biggest stories in the news today is the Georgia cheating scandal.   Public schools in Atlanta, Georgia have fallen under pressure as evidence has surfaced showing that school administrators may have altered standardized test scores to make it appear students performed better than they actually did.
By altering the test scores, students did not win.  Only the schools and school districts “won” (that is until they got caught).  In fact, Retired district superintendent Beverly Hall was praised by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan for her work in turning around these poor and minority schools.  She was even named 2009 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.
According to Hall’s indictment for racketeering, “Principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated.”   To meet these “targets,” teachers were allegedly asked to gather the students’ test sheets and change incorrect answers.  These formerly failing schools were now outperforming the wealthier suburban schools, and the school officials were being touted education reform heroes, showing that a school can be turned around from within. 
“Our schools desperately need to be fixed,” wrote The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson in a column about the scandal.  “But creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path.”  I couldn’t agree more.   These Atlanta administrators touted themselves as “education reformers” but as I have said time after time, no school district has ever reformed itself from within.  Real education reform comes as a result of external pressures through educational choice.  
By providing families with access to educational options, parents have a choice in their child’s education.  Through options such as tax credits, scholarships, vouchers, charter schools, and traditional schools, families have a say in their child’s education.  As I said this earlier week on PBS NewsHour, “the only way we are going to fly this plane while we fix it, is by helping those kids with the immediate needs, and also providing the impetus for public schools to right-side themselves.”
Our nation’s education system needs to be about providing the best education to all children.  Every option must be on the table to ensure each and every student in America receives a high-quality education that will prepare them for tomorrow.

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