Call it a tale of two school systems.
In Forsyth County, administrators, faculty, parents and students can celebrate another year of great success on the state-mandated CRCT. Test scores released last week show the county school system among the best n Georgia, with virtually all county schools ranked among the top 10 percent in some category of testing.
Several individual schools had the best scores in the state at certain grade levels and in certain subject areas.
Riverwatch Middle was ranked first in eighth-grade math and social studies; Big Creek Elementary first for fifth-grade math; Johns Creek Elemen-tary first for fifth-grade English. Eight of the county’s elementary schools and five of its middle schools were in the top 10 percent in every category.
Overall, the results were exceptional, providing more evidence that the school system is among the best in the Southeast.
But a few miles to the south, the story is sadly different.
An investigative report issued by the governor’s office last week revealed what had long been suspected — the city of Atlanta’s school system has been guilty of systemic cheating on the state CRCT, and the cheating was condoned by top level officials in the city’s public school system.
Details of what went on in the Atlanta schools seem almost impossible to comprehend as you read elements of the investigation. Nearly 200 educators thought to be involved, including some 38 principals. Cheating confirmed in 44 of 56 schools. Teachers and administrators getting together for cheating social events at which they would change student test answers en masse in order to improve scores for the system.
Teachers told investigators they cheated out of fear for their jobs. A number of professional educators seemingly went out of their way to mislead investigators looking into the issue. The chain of misdeeds apparently goes to the top, the superintendent’s office.
Depending on their level of involvement, those identified in the investigation could suffer professional sanctions or criminal charges. For us it is very clear — no teacher who was involved in changing test results should ever be in a classroom again. If there is evidence to support criminal charges, those charges should be filed and violators prosecuted.
There is neither excuse nor rationale for what investigators found in the ugly hidden recesses of the Atlanta school system. Those involved in the cheating scandal have prostituted their profession, stolen money from the taxpayers and, most cruelly, hampered the academic progress of the students with whom they were entrusted.
Atlanta has become a target of national ridicule, and so, by extension, have the rest of us in Georgia. In the weeks and days to come, no one on the national stage will be singing the praises of students in Forsyth County, but you can bet they will be laughing at the Atlanta school system.
Kudos to former Gov. Sonny Perdue for launching the investigation before leaving office, and to Gov. Nathan Deal for moving it to a conclusion. We have no sympathy for those involved, who by their very actions have shown thousands of Atlanta school students that honesty, integrity and education really aren’t important after all.