Atlanta Education Case Shows a Dark Side of Emphasis on Testing

08/11/2011 12:17 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2011
  • Larry Hirsch Team Leader, Essex County Organizing for Action

I just recently heard about the massive educational corruption case in Atlanta. Hundreds of teachers, principals and administrators are accused of altering tests to make scores go up. Higher scores make schools look good and could be the difference in educators keeping their jobs. What would make educators who have dedicated their lives to educating children do this? The answer, of course, is the over reliance on test scores in measuring educational achievement.

What has happened is that schools are graded and rated based almost solely on test scores. While there may have needed to be some measurement to greater ensure accountability, we appear to have swung too far in the other direction. In New York, schools get letter grades based mostly on test scores and improvement. These grades can determine whether a school remains open and often distort both the true performance of the students and the education they are getting.

We have all heard of the "teaching to the test" which has regimented instruction. Now in Atlanta, educators faced with the possible loss of their jobs based on test scores took to altering the tests. It is time to reassess all of the test-centric evaluation and find a way to look at the bigger picture for schools and a children's education. Yes, tests are important but they should be a smaller piece of the puzzle. We live in a computerized data worshiping age. Perhaps in areas like education we need to get away from the numbers and look at the human factors too.