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LeBrun statement in response to Atlanta cheating scandal

McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun issued the following statement today in response to reports of widespread cheating on standardized testing by educators in the Atlanta public schools:

I am proud to say that our McDuffie County Schools did not have any "erasure" irregularities as determined by the state review. We all must continue to implement the highest degree of test security and appropriate implementation as required by the law as well as ethical standards. Our testing plan is very specific regarding what is and is not acceptable. We will continue to investigate any and all situations that could potentially result in testing irregularities and invalidations. This is done to not only protect the integrity of the testing results, it is done to protect our students and our employees. I applaud our teachers and administrators for their continued efforts to effectively teach our children, to strive to reach even more lofty AMO's (annual measurable objectives) while the media and the general public rightfully condemns fellow educators for crossing the line and breaking ethical and legal boundaries by cheating.

As a veteran educational leader and teacher I am ashamed of those who participated in the Atlanta Schools cheating scandal. I warn all critics, all parents, all politicians, all stakeholders, and all citizens. The action of those misguided individuals does not represent the majority of educators across our state and nation. In a time of high stakes accountability, with federal and state mandates that place a greater emphasis on test results than the actual true success of our students and our schools, situations similar to that which has plagued the Atlanta Schools will occur. It should not be tolerated nor ignored. Teacher "merit pay" and "pay for performance", a key component of the "Race To The Top" initiatives will likely produce similar negative outcomes.

We must learn as a state and a nation that we cannot legislate a higher standard of performance. We cannot rely upon extrinsic motivators to effect a long term change in performance, be it students or adults. Over legislation could continue to erode the teaching profession to a point in which educators are no longer even considered professionals but merely facilitators whose job is strictly outcome based, much like a sales person's success is measured by the bottom line or the net profit margin. I, for one, hate to see that happen. I admire teachers and administrators because I know what sacrifices they make. I know that most of them tend to "adopt" their students and serve as surrogate parents for six to seven hours a day. I know that our good teachers give more of themselves every day because they want their students to be successful. They did not go into teaching because it was a means to get rich. They became a teacher because at some point in time they had a revelation. They had a specific thought, a defining moment. They decided that they wanted to enter a profession designed to give back, to help others reach their potential. Most educators are givers and not takers.

My hopes are that legislators and, in turn, society does not dictate the opposite. In the end, the choice is up to each individual. There are those who give back to society, and there are those who constantly take away from society. May our teachers and educational leaders always be givers.

Web posted on Thursday, July 07, 2011

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