Bill Shortell
April 27, 2015
Another recent horrific injustice in the US is the jailing of African-American school teachers in Atlanta. There is widespread consternation on the Left, but little systemic analysis of this event. Every analyst finds it necessary to include the disclaimer "Of course they were wrong. They should have been fired."

No. There is a web of determinants compelling teachers and school administrators all over the country, especially in the inner cities, to change answers on their student’s standardized tests. In the last four school years, cheating cases have been confirmed in 37 states and in the District of Columbia.

The cruel fact is that the tests are designed so that most students will fail . They say that they want to challenge our schools to improve, but reality points elsewhere.


These are “high stakes tests.” That means that there are harsh consequences for teachers, principals, and whole schools, if the test scores are low. All over the country teachers are being fired and schools closed.

There are two ways of looking at of high stakes testing. One is a cynical ruse. Call it “No Child Left Behind,” or “Race to the Top,” or the "Common Core,” it's being marketed as   all about escaping poverty. Millions of parents desperately want a way out for their kids. Education can be a solution individually, but not for masses of children. If the level of education of a group rises, unless it rises relatively faster than other, more privileged groups, and overtakes them, there will be no improvement in their economic standing, the number of good jobs remaining constant. Sold as a path out of poverty, education is a lie.

The other way of looking at high stakes testing is as a weapon of Corporate Education Reform to tear up community schools and make room for private enterprise. Capitalism in this era has been unable to find outlets for investment. This round of privatization is a sure money-maker, using tax money.

Into the opening charges the corporate educational model: Charter Schools. Many are straight-up for-profit businesses. The others have obscene salaries for their directors.

The particular personal motivation of the educators in Atlanta is not the question.They are scapegoats. They are not criminals under any definition, and are not even "wrong," except in the context of this monstrous innovation, which twists the term "reform" beyond recognition.
Any shop steward will tell you that what the boss calls "cheating" is really survival.

The big picture is schools under attack. Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning. There is  a mass movement   to resist high stakes testing. Parents and activists are leading the charge. By closing the door to fudging the system, with a show trial the Atlanta courts have actually fueled resistance to the profit-hungry attack on our schools.

Not until an economic solution is found to inner city poverty, however, will the schools cease to be a battleground.

Free the Atlanta teachers!

Stop High Stakes testing!

End the privatization of public schools!

Attack poverty with full employment and Justice in Hiring!

Bill Shortell is Political Director Eastern States Conference of Machinists


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