What happened to personal responsibility?

This morning I was listening to a local Christian radio station when I heard something from one of the DJs that bothered me.  He was discussing the Atlanta public school cheating scandal.  If you are unfamiliar with it, here is a quote from the article I just linked to:

The product of a two-year investigation, the report concluded that systematic cheating occurred within Atlanta Public Schools — which had been lauded for its quick testing gains — including at least 44 of the 56 examined schools. The report implicated 38 principals, noting that 178 educators pled the Fifth Amendment when questioned. Eighty-two other educators confessed to various forms of cheating, including erasing wrong answers on students’ multiple choice exams and then replacing them with the correct ones.

In order to raise the scores of the 2009 standardized tests, the teachers were erasing the wrong answers and putting in the right answers for the students after the tests were completed.

That is cheating. Period.

This past Friday, the 178 educators that were implicated in the cheating received an ultimatum – resign, or be fired. Here is that article.

What irritated me this morning as I listed to the DJ was where he put the blame.  He said,

“We can’t blame the teachers because they were told by their supervisors that they would lose their jobs if they did not comply.  The fault here really belongs to the higher ups that demanded the higher test scores.  The teachers were just trying to ensure the school received funding so they didn’t lose their jobs. The teachers were just doing what they were told.” 

WHAT? Are you kidding me?

Since when does being told to do something excuse the behavior? Like many of us were told as children, “If your friend told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?”.

Yes, I agree that the high level educators have a great deal of responsibility in this case and they most definitely share the blame and must face the consequences for pressuring the teachers and ordering them to lie & cheat.

I also agree that the teachers have a hard job.  They are trying to teach a classroom full of students every day and to educate them enough to pass the tests for that grade.  They are forced to teach “to pass a test” rather than teaching the kids to enjoy learning.  They are dealing with a wide range of learning abilities.  They have parents who are not educated enough to help their kids with homework, or who simply don’t care to.  The teachers end up being teacher, counselor, parent, and friend to many of the kids. 

They work HARD.  They should be paid more for all that they do. However, that does not give them the right to lie and cheat.  No matter who told them to do it.

I realize that it’s hard to stand your ground, but we’ve got to stick to our beliefs even when it’s hard.  In the Bible, Daniel was told to comply with the king’s wishes and stop praying to God or be put to DEATH.  He did not comply and the Lord saved him.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar and they were thrown into the FIRE.  God saved them too.  Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for doing what God commanded them.  Jesus was crucified. 

Who are we to say that we can’t do what is right because we might lose our job?  Find another job.  Don’t tell me it’s not that easy.  Life isn’t easy, but I’ve seen our God do some amazing, seemingly impossible things!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

2 comments to What happened to personal responsibility?

  • As a teacher I totally get where cheaters are coming from. I don’t and won’t cheat. But there is great pressure to get results. I don’t know if it’s the same in America, but our schools’ results are published on a website for all to see how we compared to other schools in our area, state and nation.
    While this has made us more ‘efficient’ as teachers, only teaching what is necessary, it has taken a lot of the fun out of teaching and learning. The narrow structure of assessment governs how our kids have to be taught (at least in the term leading up to ‘the tests’) & our schools’ repuations are ‘on the line’ to a certain extent.

    I have heard of schools doing everything they can to get ahead in these tests, even though they are meant to be a reflection of what is happening in the everyday classroom. I think you summed this up really well.

    I totally agree with you that cheating is wrong & I’m not condoning it at all. It is definitely not acceptable practice for professionals who are role-models for our kids & I find it frustrating for those of us who do things the right way. But I also think it is totally wrong to base a teacher’s or school’s reputation on test scores, there are so many things wrong with that!

    Haha sorry, didn’t realise I was so fired up about this topic till I started typing. I admire the way you honoured the work that teachers do do in your post. I guess when it comes down to it, we are all sinners in a fallen world, though I may not cheat on standardised tests, I am still just as guilty of sin.

    • Midlife Army Wife

      Thanks for your response! The interesting thing is that the tests are supposed to be a reflection of the school and the education of the children. Unfortunately, in many cases the kids are being taught just enough to memorize it long enough to take the test, but are not really learning it. Then, we have cases like this where the cheating causes the tests to not reflect the students’ education at all. It all defeats the purpose of having the testing in the first place. Yes, here in America we have access to the schools’ test scores and are supposed to be able to see which schools are doing a better job of teaching. In my opinion though, if the information is not really helpful if we can’t trust the numbers.

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