Now we’re throwing teachers in jail?

If you haven’t heard, this week school teachers and administrators in Atlanta were found guilty of changing students’ answers on tests so that they would receive a passing grade.  And then they were sent to prison.

Oh my goodness gracious.  Are Georgia’s prisons really so empty that they need to fill it up with some school teachers who cheated on a test?  

To be clear, I’m not defending the teachers cheating and changing those test scores or giving out answers or any of the other things they did.  But I’m saying, without a doubt, that putting those teachers in jail is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Oh, but the kids you say…the kids are being exploited in all of this.  Why yes, yes they are.  But not just by those teachers.  By the entire system.  To show you what I mean, let’s look at the numbers from the 2013-2014 budget for Atlanta’s schools.  I sorted through all 279 pages of it so you wouldn’t have to, and here’s what I found.

  •  Atlanta schools have one teacher for as many as 35 students
  • But they also need over 130 elementary PE teachers.  Really?  130 full time employees to make sure that nobody cheats at kickball…(Hahaha, as if they’d care if anybody cheated!)
  • There are 67 positions budgeted as “art” teachers.
  • There’s $10,000,000 budgeted for elementary PE programs.
  • There’s over $10,000,000 budgeted for art and music programs.
  • There’s over $816,000 budgeted for the school superintendent.
  • Another $500,000 is budgeted for the school board.
  • From 2010-2012 the scores for 3rd-8th grade in math and science have averaged at or barely above failing.  And the investigation revealed that the cheating scandal has been going on since long before 2010, so the kids are actually dumber than those numbers reveal.

Let’s break this down.

  • In a school district where kids are routinely and repeatedly failing standardized tests in math and science (even after the school helped them cheat), there is over $20,000,000 budgeted for PE, art and music.
  • In a school district where one teacher is responsible for up to 35 students in a class, there are over 200 teachers dedicated to PE, art and music.
  • In a school district where even after the teachers help the kids cheat they still can’t pass standardized tests in math and science, the superintendent and school board have budgets in excess of $1,000,000.

So yes, those kids are being mistreated, but not by the teachers who helped them cheat on a test (I’d even argue that the test scores from 2010-2012 should be evidence enough to have the teachers released from prison).  But those kids are also being mistreated by a public school system that failed at a much higher level than standardized tests.  And they’re being mistreated by parents who didn’t care enough to get involved.

Yep, let’s not let the parents off the hook in all of this.  Do you think those kids were making Straight-As all year?  Of course not.  If you bother to pay attention to your kid’s report card and see that he’s failing math and science…do something about it.  Get a tutor, switch schools, get elected to the school board, keep them home and teach them yourselves.  But if you care enough to send their teachers to prison, care enough to get involved.

Speaking of parents and the school board, if you go here you can see the election results for the 2013 school board elections in Atlanta.  The Atlanta public schools serve 48,976 students.  Only 28,600 votes were cast for the district seats on the school board.  Not even every parent bothered to vote.

So let’s stand up for the kids.  Let’s start holding people responsible.

We can start with the parents who didn’t take enough interest or initiative to get their kids properly educated.  And from there we’ll move on to the school board who decided that in a district where kids can’t pass a basic test of math and science skills that $20,000,000 should be dedicated to PE, art and music.  The same school board who decided to employ 200 teachers for extra-curricular activities while burdening the real teachers with 35 students in a classroom.

The problem isn’t cheating teachers.  The problem in the whole broken public school system.

I can find lots of people to throw in jail over this whole mess.  My only problem is where to stop?  We all know how important a healthy breakfast is to test taking.  What about parents who didn’t provide healthy meal options for Little Johnny?  Maybe just some light probation for them?

What about the kids who we catch cheating on tests just because they want to?  Do we start sending them to prison?  What about college students who buy or sell a paper?  Should they get ultra-prison because the test was so much harder?

What about me?  I’ve been doing other people’s homework for fun and compensation for as long as I can remember.  I even offered to intentionally flunk a college test to fix the grading curve for money once.  Thank goodness I’m not in Georgia, that’s maximum security stuff there.

I know, I know, it’s all absurd.  But no more so that sending teachers to jail FOR SEVEN YEARS because of a test cheating scandal.  If people really cared, they’d be looking for solutions rather than scapegoats.