As Atlantans follow the ongoing trial of Atlanta Public School teachers and administrators charged with cheating, students in the APS district are taking a special interest in the proceedings. Youth Radio Atlanta’s Jenn Steckl offers her thoughts on how the cheating and its aftermath hurt every student in the system.
By: Jenn Steckl
I consider myself lucky. I’m an Atlanta Public School student, but I didn’t go to one of the schools where a teacher erased student test responses and filled in correct ones.
I also consider myself unlucky. I’ve watched the headlines about my district’s cheating scandal for most of my time in high school. And those headlines hurt me.
As a graduating senior from a tarnished school system, I have to worry every time I apply to a college. My peers and I now have to hope the schools don’t associate the scandal with us. It’s a burden that the guiltless don’t deserve.
You may think my generation isn't up to date with what is happening locally and nationally in the news, but we talk about the cheating story. ... a lot.
The investigation has gone on for so long that now it is a normal topic of conversation. The scandal is part of our daily reality.
Last spring, I made a discovery. Letters submitted to the court by teachers. They were included in one of the many news stories I read.
One teacher apologized for failing to exemplify the characteristics that he tried to instill in his students. Others pushed the blame away, saying that pressure from superiors clouded their judgment. When I first read these letters, I thought of them as artifacts preserving a historic investigation. But after reading several of them, I was overwhelmed with a sense that something wasn’t right.
The students who had their tests altered probably never saw these letters. Most of my peers don’t even know they exist. The students who suffered through the district’s cheating are the ones who need to hear these personal apologies and explanations the most.
So what does the cheating scandal mean for all of us? Now we have to work twice as hard. Getting good grades isn’t considered a reward in itself anymore because those grades come from a school system of perceived cheaters. Our offenses are national news. And they’ve become the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows. But it’s no joke for students who have to overcome the perception of a morally bankrupt school system...students who have to rebuild the nation’s trust of the district and its teachers.
Jenn Steckl is a senior at Grady High School