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.

Also On Black America Web:

14 thoughts on “Jail Time Not the Answer to Atlanta Cheating Scandal

  1. I concur with Mr. Joyner on this. In my opinion as a teacher, I can see how the 1% of USA teachers can cave in to pressure from the district, Principal, pay being attached to performance and students who do not care about State exams(nothing in their behaviors will tell you they have a State exam coming up)…these teachers were on auto pilot, out of body and in a prolonged “temporary insanity”. Ask any of them if they really thought of the consequences or if they would do it again. I am sure they are in deep remorse, regret and can not believe they actually went that far. People, I believe that teachers are the greatest learners. Give them probation, fine them and put them on a road show to talk to other teachers who are under pressure. Turn negative to positive. Start this conversation. Tom, not all schools are the same in the USA. We have schools in my opinion that have little Johnie who finds the teacher boring as compared to TV shows and video Games and other fictitious stuff. Johnie stopped doing homework after the first 3 weeks.Johnie will not complete tasks and will prefer to guess on the tests. Other side of the coin. Teacher’s pay is tied to Johnie’s performance. Teacher’s overall evaluation, read her job, is tied to Johnie’s performance. Parent support is zero. Monies to buy incentives are limited. We buy candy, other edibles etc to keep our students motivated from our low pay…there maybe bad apples spoiling our name, but as teachers we are moms, confidants, comforters, listeners, teachers etc You can not pay us enough. Restitution will be good for these teachers who succumbed to institutionalized pressure…a symptom of a greater disease that needs healing. Lets talk more on this. I also have an online radio station for Kenyans in the Diaspora..that is Kenyans out of Kenya and would like to be a contributor to your show on Kenyan/African issues when they arise.

    Did not know how to share this info. Rev. Jesse Jackson was in my country Kenya this week to witness the swearing in of our 4th President after a world class election.

    See link. Copy and paste.

  2. Nilaja, the parents can’t claim ignorance on this one. I know all their work wasn’t done in the classroom. They had to have homework. I checked my kids homework. I read their papers and made them do it over if it was not right. I knew their weakness because I didn’t allow them to just tell me how they were doing, I checked. I read to my kids when they were young and I made them read to me. You have to be involved in you kids education. You can’t put all your trust in the teachers.

    • Nilaja on said:

      Unfornately, Boo, there are a lot of people who continue to trust teachers. In a way, they feel that they have to because we hand over our most precious commodity every day and trust it will be shaped and molded into an individual with a thirst for knowledge. You and I are rare. For every 200 parents like us who have instilled in our children the joy of reading and learning, there are 2000 who leave that job to the teachers. We, as a people, have a history of trust when it comes to teachers. Denied learning for over 400 years in this country, the ancestors have impressed upon us that to attend school is where you learn. To give your teacher the utmost respect because of what he/she can teach you was at one time the imperative of the day. Today, of course, things have changed. We live in time and a place where teachers cheat and molest their students. You’d think with all the devastating news on what teachers have become that we’d be a just a little wary and more inquisitive of the day our child has had in school. I have seen children come home and for weeks tell their parents they have no homework. While I immmediately question that, there are many who don’t. I was furious to learn that many teachers just focus on getting their students through these state/city exams and so all they do is take practice exams. Where is the learning, in this? I am not saying all teachers are like this. But, for those who chose the profession, there seems to be a lack of the altruistic nature that must be in a person for them to say I want to be a teacher. Whatever it is that drives a person to teach, it can never be for the money or about the individual. It must always be about the student.

  3. Nilaja on said:

    Of course parents have some accountability. But, how can you be accountable about something you don’t know. These children were bringing home passing grades and high scores on thier exams. Why would you question that?

  4. Parents need to be more involved in their kids education. They need to attend more parent teacher conferences, look at the course schedule for thier kids classes at the beginning of the semister and make sure thier kids are doing their homework. They also need to make sure their kids get the necessary assistance if they are having a problems with any subject. The parents are accountable for what goes on at home. They should make sure thier kids put in the necessary study time at home and limit TV time and Facebook time too. Stop putting all the blame on the teachers. It’s not all up to the educators to make sure our kids are properly educated.

  5. Steve on said:

    Yet no one is asking then Cathy Cox(State Super) or even Sonny Perdue(then Gov) about the bonuses they collected during this time-frame. FOLLOW THE DAMN MONEY…doesn’t stop with Ms Hall.

  6. jdgwisd on said:

    Tom, I love your compassion, but not your logic. As an educator, it’s our job to find ways to teach children the strageties needed to pass logic based tests. To allow someone to regain their job for not trying hard enough to educate our children spits on the integrety of other educators who exhaust themselves finding ways to educate our children. To suggest otherwise sets an unwitting presedent: That black kids cant learn and need to cheat in order to make in in America. Talking about the Miseducation of the Negro!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 55th st silverbacks on said:

      the miseducation of a negro points to the real issue, these teachers are fighting a losing battle. the problem in the public schools has been around as long as public education itself. once again our history is the key. the school system was debated and set up to appease. “teach to earn and not learn” this has left thirsty minds to wander and learn all the wrong things well. the issue is not the people it is the broken or (and i pray i am just biased as a black man educated in this system) should i say devised system.

  7. Nilaja on said:

    “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.” You have a kind heart. What do you say to the parent whose child is in the 9th grade and only reading on a 5th grade level as a result of this cheating. What do you say to any of these children who were cheated out of an education because these “teachers” not only cheated on tests, but failed to redeem themselves by actually teaching. If you can recognize a students failing test scores then you should be able to recognize that these students require more in the classroom besides being given the right answer. I do agree that jail is not the answer. My answer, first and foremost these teachers/administrators owe the school district and its students a heartfelt apology. Then all of them must prepare to be examined by taking the teacher’s certification test. For those who pass, if any, they would be assigned to classroom where they will partner with a teacher of experience who will show them how to teach (2 years). Each student that they changed test scores on will receive free tutoring from them to bring them up to the grade level of their peers in however many subjects they may need help. All of them will pay back all bonuses. For the teachers that cannot be re-certified, they will be stripped of their degrees and cannot use their administrative or teaching experience to find new jobs. Let them start all over and know how these students feel who have been left behind.

      • Stacey on said:

        Exactly…”your child is in the 9th grade but reads at a 6th grade level and somehow that’s the schools fault”. One parent even had the nerve to do an interview on a local radio station and admit she never knew what her daughter had for homework and also never met any of her teachers while in middle school. 3 years never met any of your child’s teachers…..really but now you are angry with the cheating scandal….lol

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