Whistle-blowing teachers targeted
His bosses had no trouble dismissing Ryan Abbott’s report of cheating on standardized tests in an Atlanta school. They simply cast him in a self-fulfilling role, Abbott says: “disgruntled teacher.”
Abbott was already on probation, after four years at Benteen Elementary. His students had not posted the big increases in test scores seen in other classrooms. Yet he had the audacity to level charges against a popular colleague. After word of Abbott’s allegations spread through the school, Benteen’s principal opened an ethics case — against him.
“It’s put me in a very difficult spot,” said Abbott, whose job security remains tenuous even though state authorities corroborated his claims of cheating at Benteen. “It’s a tough place to be.”
Abbott’s experience illustrates the perils that befall Atlanta Public Schools teachers who report cheating or other wrongdoing, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
The newspaper reviewed reports of the school district’s internal investigations and spoke with more than a dozen current and former Atlanta educators. The documents and the interviews describe a culture that punishes employees who report wrongdoing and rewards those who keep silent. Some whistle-blowers end up under scrutiny themselves. Others are subjected to questions about their mental health. Some lose their jobs.
The prospect of even the most subtle forms of reprisal not only discourages teachers from reporting impropriety, educators say, it makes them more susceptible to pressure to cheat on such assessments as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.
Not one educator confessed during the school district’s initial inquiry into widespread cheating on the 2009 CRCT. Now, under threat of criminal prosecution if they lie to state agents investigating the cheating scandal, numerous Atlanta educators have acknowledged witnessing or participating in irregularities.
“It’s just this thing that everyone knows is going on but nobody says anything,” said former teacher Sidnye Fells, who alleged that administrators at Dobbs Elementary cheated. “It’s the elephant in the room. If you say anything, you lose your job.”
One day during her five years at Dobbs, Fells said, an administrator pushing a cartload of papers stopped at her room after students had left, handed over their CRCT answer sheets and books containing the test questions, and told her to “check for stray marks.”
Teachers aren’t supposed to be left alone with test papers — much less test papers and an eraser. So Fells assumed the administrator was encouraging her to correct wrong answers. She says she made no changes.
Fells later reported other testing irregularities, but state investigators found no probable cause to sanction the administrator she named. Fells resigned from the Atlanta schools in 2008 after a dispute with the district over sick leave.
The district says it has adopted “strict policies prohibiting any form of retaliation” against whistle-blowers. A statement released Friday said Superintendent Beverly Hall “strongly believes it is important to maintain an open and retaliation-free workplace culture.” ENTIRE STORY
Its ridiculous that the entire school system AND STUDENTS have to suffer because of incompetence and ignorant chit going on among the school board.