Back when the No Child Left Behind education reform law was first enacted, some observers joked that the law really should be called "No Teacher Left Honest" because of the huge incentives it put in place for teachers (and administrators) to cook the results of standardized tests. Even before NCLB came along, cheating around standardized tests was common. By linking big money to test results, NCLB -- and similar state-wide testing regimes -- seemed a recipe for rampant corruption.
Well, that's pretty much how things turned out. And the recent high-profile case in Atlanta shows just how corrosive these teacher cheating scandals can be. The star superintendent of that city ordered an independent investigation of possible cheating in spring 2010 after a state audit raised questions about test results that seemed dubiously high. The results weren't pretty and Hall ended up reassigning 12 principals and turning over the names of 100 teachers involved in the cheating to state authorities.
The scandal has dragged out for months and frequently made headlines throughout Georgia and the country. It's been a huge headache for Hall, who has been at the forefront of education reform efforts and has lots of better things to worry about. Atlanta doesn't seem especially notable in the cheating uncovered. These stories have been popping up everywhere. And, to say the least, they send a terrible message to school kids who already think that many people cheat to get ahead in the "real world."