On Wednesday, April 1, 11 educators in Atlanta were found guilty of racketeering—more specifically, of changing grades and making false statements about standardized tests in their school districts.
Racketeering is a felony carrying up to 20 years in prison. While we do not question that these educators are guilty, the incident in Atlanta highlights a problem in the way education systems in our country receive their funding. Standardized tests put pressure on educators and students to perform well in an evaluation that does not fully encompass the quality of their program.
Standardized tests make regulating schools easy for the federal government, but they pose serious limitations in the classroom. They take away from actual learning time and force students of differing abilities to take the same multiple choice tests every year. On a larger scale, they may increase the education gap in the United States . Schools demonstrating improvement or high test scores receive more help from the government, while struggling schools may not receive the help they need due to lower scores.
The motivation for the cheating in Atlanta is clear; so why are these educators being charged with a felony most often reserved for cases like money laundering? If these are the avenues educators feel compelled to take, whether for personal gain or to improve their schools, there is a problem with the standardized testing system.
While it’s not easy to pose a solution to how the government should distribute funds to individual schools, it is worth noting that the disconnect between the school system and the government is made especially obvious in a case like this one.
The results of standardized testing are simply not enough to effectively evaluate an education system. The United States federal government needs a better way of judging the quality of schools in order to improve schools that need help.