06-19-2018  3:10 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

Community Forum: How Does Law Enforcement Interact With Vulnerable Populations?

Forum will focus on public safety and examine mental health and addiction issues ...

King County Council Recognizes Juneteenth

The Metropolitan King County Council recognizes a true 'freedom day' in the United States ...

Unite Oregon Hosts ‘Mourn Pray Love, and Take Action’ June 20

Community is invited to gather at Terry Schrunk Plaza at 6 p.m. on World Refugee Day ...

MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

CareOregon Awards $250,000 for Housing Projects

Recipients include Rogue Retreat, Bridges to Change, Luke Dorf, Transition Projects and Bridge Meadows ...

Colorado to adopt California's stricter car pollution rules

DENVER (AP) — Colorado's governor on Tuesday ordered his state to adopt California's vehicle pollution rules, joining other states in resisting the Trump administration's plans to ease up on emission standards.Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told state regulators begin writing rules that...

Protesters on round-the-clock vigil at Oregon ICE facility

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A small group of protesters has set up camp outside the Portland, Oregon headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating families after illegal border crossings.About two dozen protesters gathered...

Woman shot to death in Snohomish-area home, man arrested

SNOHOMISH, Wash. (AP) — Authorities say 45-year-old woman was shot to death northeast of Seattle in her Snohomish-area home and a man believed to be her husband has been arrested.The Seattle Times reports a man called 911 around 9 p.m. Monday and reported that someone had been hurt in his...

Colorado to adopt California's stricter car pollution rules

DENVER (AP) — Colorado's governor on Tuesday ordered his state to adopt California's vehicle pollution rules, joining other states in resisting the Trump administration's plans to ease up on emission standards.Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told state regulators begin writing rules that...

OPINION

Juneteenth: Freedom's Promise Still Denied

Juneteenth is a celebration of the de facto end of slavery, but the proliferation of incarceration keeps liberation unfulfilled ...

What Happened? Assessing the Singapore Summit

For all its weaknesses, we are better off having had the summit than not ...

Redlining Settlement Fails to Provide Strong Penalties

A recent settlement of a federal redlining lawsuit is yet another sign that justice is still being denied ...

5 Lessons on Peace I Learned from My Cat Soleil

Dr. Jasmine Streeter takes some cues on comfort from her cat ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Bucks' Sterling Brown sues Milwaukee over stun-gun arrest

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown sued the city of Milwaukee and its police department Tuesday, saying officers' use of a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation constitutes excessive force and that they targeted him because he is black.Brown's attorney Mark...

Lawsuit claims Kansas official exposed private voter data

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach challenging a multi-state voter registration database it claims exposed sensitive information including partial Social Security numbers from nearly a thousand state...

California lawmakers push diversity through film tax credit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers passed legislation Monday that puts more conditions on state film tax credits to encourage better sexual harassment reporting and diverse hiring amid revelations of misconduct and discrimination in the movie industry.The legislation would...

ENTERTAINMENT

CBS' '60 Minutes' gathers audience week by week

NEW YORK (AP) — The newsmagazine "60 Minutes" was not television's most popular program this year, but for the 11th consecutive season it had more people who watched at least once during the year than any other non-sports show on TV.The Nielsen company's cumulative measurement of programs...

Film Review: 'The King' is guilty of an Elvis crime- excess

It's usually a bad sign when critics start questioning your film before it's even finished. But director Eugene Jarecki had to endure worse. While making the documentary "The King," he actually got gruff from a member of his own film crew.After a car breaks down, Jarecki takes the opportunity to...

Birthplace of singer, activist Nina Simone to be preserved

TRYON, N.C. (AP) — The dilapidated wooden cottage in North Carolina that was the birthplace of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone now has the protection of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.The trust said in a news release Tuesday that it will develop and find a new use...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Lawyer: Police think slaying of XXXTentacion was random

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The lawyer for slain rapper XXXTentacion said Tuesday that detectives believe...

Trump raises risk of economically harmful US-China trade war

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and China edged closer Tuesday to triggering the riskiest trade war in...

Meat 2.0? Clean meat? Spat shows the power of food wording

NEW YORK (AP) — If meat is grown in a lab without slaughtering animals, what should it be called?That...

Merkel says climate change is 'a fact,' laments US stance

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel took aim Tuesday at U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to...

Blurring the border, Turkey deepens roots in northern Syria

AL-BAB, Syria (AP) — A newly paved road links the Turkish town of Elbeyli to the Syrian town of al-Bab,...

London police say short circuit caused minor subway blast

LONDON (AP) — A battery short circuit caused a small explosion at a London Underground station that injured...

Atlanta Schools cheating scandal
Julianne Malveaux, NNPA Columnist

Eleven Atlanta teachers have been convicted of altering student test scores on standardized tests. They are charged with racketeering and conspiracy. The much-celebrated Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools Beverly L. Hall was among the indicted but was too ill to stand trial. She died March 2.

Another group of teachers, principals and administrators took plea bargains. A total of 178 people were accused of taking part in the cheating “scam” and in 2011 Hall reminded observers that “we have over 3,000 teachers in Atlanta,” and just a few were part of the cheating scandal. She also denied having any knowledge of the cheating. Until her illness, she insisted that she wanted to stand trial and clear her name.

In what was described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. prosecuted the educators under a law originally designed to snare organized crime figures. Of the 12 defendants, 11 were convicted of racketeering, a felony punishable up to 20 years. One defendant, Dessa Curb, a former elementary school teacher, was acquitted.

Those 11 convicted were taken straight from the courtroom to jail. Sentencing should take place this week. On top of the 20 years maximum sentence for racketeering, they could be convicted on other charges including making false statements. It is interesting to note that most of these teachers are African American.

You can serve as few as 15 years for second-degree murder in Georgia, and as little as a year for involuntary manslaughter. Further, most convicted offenders get a day or even months to go home and straighten out their affairs before reporting to prison. But not this group of educators.

These Atlanta teachers aren’t the only teachers involved in similar cheating scams. A year ago, 130 Philadelphia educators were accused of cheating. In September, several were ordered to stand trial.

Why have those who chose a low-paid and little-regarded profession stoop to cheating on standardized tests? Are they judged by the number of students who pass these flawed tests, and the number who fail? Is there a culture of cheating in too many of our nation’s schools? Is there a culture of “teaching to the test”?

There is no excuse for the cheating in Atlanta, or Philadelphia, or in El Paso, where the school superintendent was imprisoned for reporting faulty test scores.

While there is no excuse, it would be foolhardy to ignore the pressure that many face when federal laws mandate the use of standardized tests to “prove” that teachers and schools are doing their jobs.

In some districts, including Atlanta, teachers are given bonuses when their students do well on tests, and may be terminated when students do not. Even now, after revisions in teacher evaluation, half of teacher performance is based on standardized tests. Teachers can be reassigned, or schools can be closed if there are too many poor-performing students enrolled.

It makes sense to look at the many ways that the system encourages teachers to manipulate, if not outright cheat, when they administer standardized tests. Some schools spend days preparing students to take the tests.

They aren’t spending days teaching the material students must learn, just the rote material needed to pass standardized tests. Passing a test in English and grammar may prove some proficiency, but does it prove that a student can write a paragraph or an essay, or engage in critical thinking?

When teachers spend too much time focused on standardized testing and not enough on course content, are they cheating students? In teaching to the test, are they cheating to the test? I’m not referring to the multiple erasures that investigators found on some of the Atlanta tests, or schemes that excluded poor-performing students from testing so average grades could be higher.

I’m referring to teachers who choose to teach content that they know will show up on the test, or those who spend tens of hours in “practice sessions” with old copies of tests used as drills. From my perspective students are being cheated when there is too much emphasis placed on standardized testing.

One might ask how teachers and students can be evaluated without standardized tests, but there is an extensive body of research that suggests other methods of evaluating teachers, including classroom observation and curriculum review. Interestingly, an increasing number of colleges do not use standardized tests to evaluate students for admissions because they recognize such tests are flawed.

Obviously, there must be some way to measure progress among students, and proficiency among teachers. Still, standardized test results should not be tied to teacher compensation, or to threats of school closings. If standardized tests are one way to measure results, they must be combined with other measures to ensure fairness.

It makes sense, though, to ask if there is a racial dynamic to leading nearly a dozen teachers, mostly African American, out of a courtroom in handcuffs. And it makes sense to wonder if the charge of racketeering is being applied to harshly for what is clearly illegal misconduct.

While teaching to the test is not against the law, isn’t it cheating our students nearly as much as the scams?

 

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, writer, and President Emerita of Bennett College. She can be reached at juliannemalveaux.com.

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