It wasn't the pressure from Donald Rumsfeld to extract the information he had already decided was correct. It wasn't the mid-level officers who told the prison guards and the interrogators to press harder to get the detainees to spill the beans. The Pentagon seniors already knew what they wanted to know; they just needed corroboration. Torture, if necessary, to get it.
And it certainly wasn't the Bush administration's insistence on covering it's ass for the huge blunder of going into Iraq in the first place.
No, it was the "bad apples" who did inconceivable, shameful things to the detainees. The privates and sergeants who stayed up nights guarding prisoners and assisting in interrogation tactics. Some bad apples are inevitable, you know? Tsk, tsk. How unfortunate. But Rummy wasn't to blame. Cheney wasn't to blame, Bush wasn't to blame.
And now, back home in Hotlanta and our very own scandal. It was the few unethical teachers and superintendents who were more concerned with their performance ratings than with the education of students. Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall issued just such a statement before she left office last month. She was deeply disappointed and shocked that this had existed in the schools, and she had no information that cheating was going on.
A few isolated bad apples? Oh, yeah? Independent investigators confirmed cheating had taken place in 44 of the 56 school districts that they examined. The report, released yesterday by the governor, names 178 educators, including 38 principles, as participants in the cheating.
And in case anyone reading this hasn't been following the local news, this was not students cheating; this was educators altering students' test results to make it appear that they had done a better teaching job than they had.
So, Superintendent Hall. A few bad apples?
The independent investigators' report says the following:
We uncovered organized and systemic misconduct within the district as far back as 2001. Superintendent Beverly Hall and her senior staff knew, or should have known, that cheating and other offenses were occurring. Many of the accolades, and much of the praise, received by APS over the last decade were ill gotten.Here it should be noted that Superintendent Hall was named National Superintendent of the Year for 2009, based largely on the increase in scores of the students on the national CRCT standardized tests. The report continues:
Dr. Hall and her administration received numerous reports of cheating at a number of schools. She ignored them, hid them or attempted to explain them away. . . . When an expert, hired by APS, produced a report which suggested that cheating could be one explanation for large score gains, Dr. Hall deleted that report from her computer. . . . .This did not begin, and it cannot end, with a few bad apples. Dr. Hall herself must be held accountable, even though she has left the job. She is slated to collect a generous retirement from the state, and she retains her 2009 Superintendent of the Year award.
APS became such a 'data-driven' system, with unreasonable and excessive pressure to meet targets, that Dr. Hall and her senior cabinet lost sight of conducting tests with integrity. The immense pressure to meet targets placed on principals was imposed upon classroom teachers. Meeting targets 'by any means necessary' became more important that actual student achievement.
Under-performing students not only were cheated out of the remedial help they would have been entitled to, had their true scores been recognized. More wide-spread was the damage to the entire body of students who have now been given a model for cheating by the very ones who are supposed to guide their learning, which has to include basic ethical lessons about honesty and integrity. You don't cheat on exams. Teachers shouldn't do it either.
This is a black day for the APS. Dishonor reeks to the highest levels. I would even extend it to Bush's misguided No Child Left Behind program that put such emphasis on test scores and achievement, in the first place. You can't measure true education by quantitative tests. Teachers hated NCLB, it didn't work. They were forced to "teach to the test," whether it was helpful to students or not. And the Obama administration's improvements helped some, but may not have gone far enough.