*First, the obligatory, but also important, note that they are just indictments not convictions. That said, other than about the scale, the bond, and so forth I don’t know anyone especially surprised by this sad turn of events.
*On the general issue, if you don’t think public educators can handle real accountability without resorting to cheating (e.g. the constant refrain of “Campbell’s Law) then you have a pretty low opinion of public school educators. In most walks of life there are high-stakes consequences attached to professional and behavioral decisions. And yet most people are able to play by the rules.
*In the end this may turn out to be an old story about human and professional greed and desire for recognition and accolades more than a unique story about education or education policy. The cheating was largely about district goals and targets and contingent bonuses not broader state and federal school accountability requirements. There is some interrelation, of course, given the thrust of policy today but in the rush to prove one point or another what is alleged to have actually happened in Atlanta is being obscured. And it’s worth noting it wasn’t happening like this statewide.
*Don’t lose sight of all the educators in Atlanta who didn’t cheat, aren’t accused of doing so, and are getting an undeserved black-eye here. Progress was made on other measures besides the state tests and including NAEP. It’s akin to baseball’s steroid era. There are bad apples, sure, but don’t forget everyone who played clean, or in this case taught clean.
*In the rush to score points it’s worth remembering that this is a sad episode and some young people lost something here that they can’t get back – their time. That this turn of events (like others that bolster or discredit reform efforts) is being met in some quarters of our hyper-polarized education debate with glee because it’s a perceived strike against “school reform” is depraved.