It was the saddest news of the week: three dozen public school educators were indicted in a huge cheating scandal. Included in the indictment are the former superintendent of schools and several high-level administrators and principals.

If you haven’t heard about it, they are accused of giving or changing answers on tests after they were turned in to boost their students’ grades.

They were wrong and they may be going jail.  But what does that solve, really? Will children be able to pass those tests? Will teachers still feel intimidated into making sure students perform better? Will schools stop pressuring teachers to do things that may be beyond their control?

Schools with good test scores get extra money to spend in the classroom or on bonuses, and everyone knows how rough it is for most public schools and public school teachers.

I believe with my heart of hearts that these educators were up against it and were doing what they thought was best for their students and their schools.  The best solution for everyone involved is to allow the accused teachers to pay back any money they received and get them back into the classrooms where they belong.

Think about it. Other people have gone free for much worse infractions. Cheating is a terrible thing but once again, follow the money. These teachers, for not much pay, are expected to do the impossible.

Day after day, they enter over-crowded classrooms with minimal supplies. Not to mention, they are the scape goats for the “No Child Left Behind” policy that, by most accounts, is failing.

We all want America to be competitive and to churn out students who will make remarkable contributions in math, science and literature. But we have to be realistic, too. There are some social problems that have changed the game and addressing them takes the kind of sacrifice few of us are willing to make.

The mantra at the TJMS is to “put the work in.” That means, if you say you want the best, most competitive schools and students in the world, put the work in! You can’t expect it to happen while turning your backs on Head Start and other programs that feed poor children and offer their parents assistance.

You can’t shut down drug rehab and mental health facilities. You can’t cut off money for after school enrichment courses, P.E. and summer jobs. You have to come up with a way to make kids ready to learn in safe environments. You have to face the fact that no matter how many times you blame the parents, some parents are just not present physically or mentally able to do what they ought to do.

There are children whose parents and grandparents are incarcerated, drug addicted, illiterate, homeless or dead.  They may be hungry, they may be sleepy, they may be angry, and they may have drugs in their bodies. The current system is the same system that’s been used for a century and it’s not working anymore.

The solution to lock up the kids, lock up the parents and now the teachers is a horrible one.

Give these teachers back their jobs, make them write 100 times on the chalk board, “I Will Not Cheat Again”, then give them a chance to redeem themselves and renew their dignity. I can’t imagine the shame they feel.

When I proposed this idea on the air, I got a lot of interesting responses from social media.  Here are a few:

“I agree with you. The teachers should be required to do free tutoring for struggling students.”
“We cannot test and teach at the same time. Much sympathy for the teachers from the ATL caught in the middle.”
“If the teachers would do their jobs in the classrooms, the students could pass the tests…fire them, but no jail time.”

”This is why the schools are quick to label our kids ADD/ADHD and want to put them on medicine. They want the money for the school and they will do whatever to get it. They need as many kids as possible to pass. So SAD!!!”

And there’s always a comedian in the bunch:

”Punish the teachers by making them teach DL Hughley how to dance on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Seriously, though, these are our teachers, men and women who will do for our children what many of us won’t do for them ourselves.

Of course, there are some bad apples in the bunch. But I promise you, most of them, if given the second chance, will be better than they ever were in the classroom. And that’s good for everybody.

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