By Tommy Andres, CNN
Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.
(CNN) - This week, 35 former Atlanta Public Schools teachers and administrators, including the former superintendent, Beverly Hall, turned themselves into police. They were indicted on charges ranging from racketeering to theft, all tied to a district-wide cheating scandal that was discovered in recent years. It's been described as the largest school cheating scheme in the history of the United States.
The teachers are accused of erasing and changing standardized test answers to improve scores. Those scores are tied closely to state and federal funding as well as teacher bonuses.
The arrests were another step towards closure of a three year saga that's left an indelible mark on Atlanta.
Errol Davis took over as superintendent when Hall resigned in 2011.
CNN Radio interviewed Davis about his journey through the scandal and about changes he's made on testing security at Atlanta's public schools.
By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN
(CNN) – Georgia Turner grew up in a small town in eastern Kentucky. She studied hard, she played played soccer and she didn't even consider going to a party until she got to college.
The petite sophomore recalls her excitement to start classes at the University of Louisville. She even paid to move in early. Then, one August night two years ago, she went to a party, her first, with some people she'd just met. That's all she remembers from the night. The next morning she felt awful.
[2:30] "I had bruises all over my body. I really knew, it's just a feeling you know and I knew I'd been raped."
For about a month Turner just tried to cope.
Read the full story and hear the podcast from CNN Radio
[2:40] "I literally spent a lot of the time making myself throw up and trying to get whatever happened to me out of my body."
By Jim Roope, CNN
(CNN) – Getting into a good college is so competitive that even the nearly perfect student has trouble.
[0:38] “I got a 2390 out of 2400 on my SAT,” said 18-year-old Kevin Mark.
Yet with that near-perfect SAT score, a 4.0+ GPA throughout high school, an Eagle Scout and volunteer work for his church and community, he was not accepted to MIT, his first choice of college, nor his second choice Cal Tech.
What do you think about the pressure today's students are facing? Do you have any stories to share? Please leave your comments below.
By Jim Roope, CNN
(CNN) – Some call it ‘the summer slide.’ Some call it ‘the summer brain drain.’ But whatever you call it, summer learning loss is a real phenomenon that has plagued students since summer vacations began.
Fourth-grade teacher Marian Valdez says that much of what kids learned in the 3rd grade they seem to forget over the summer.
Listen in as Jim Roope talks to teachers and students about summer:
“We spend the first couple of months, especially in math, reviewing, going back over the facts, time tests, those kinds of things,” said Valdez, who teaches at Washington Elementary in Los Angeles.
The first known report about summer learning loss came in a 1906 New York Times article by William White. He tested students in math before and after the summer and a found loss of skills. So for more than a hundred years, we’ve been trying to stop the summer knowledge leak.
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast from Steve Kastenbaum about high-stakes standardized testing.
by Steve Kastenbaum, CNN
(CNN) Standardized tests are nothing new in public schools. Chances are you filled out bubbles on an answer form at some point during your schooling. But for the past few years, scores from statewide tests in English and math have been used to determine which schools are doing a good job of educating students and which are “failing.”
Today, the test results count for more than just a letter grade for a school. Teachers in some states are now being labeled good or bad based on their students’ scores.
Welcome to the world of high-stakes standardized testing.
“I find it the most absurd thing in the world. I don’t know anyone who thinks they’re valid,” said Principal Anna Allanbrook at Public School 146 in Brooklyn, New York. “So the morale is down because teachers are worried that people who don’t really know their work will make decisions about their jobs.”
Standardized tests have long been used as one measure of a student’s progress in core subjects. But now, federal funding hinges on test results. It started with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to rate schools based on test results in order to receive federal funds.
President Obama’s administration then dangled an additional $4.3 billion dollars in front of school administrators in a competition called Race to the Top. In order to qualify for multi-million dollar grants, U.S. Department of Education spokesman Peter Cunningham said, states had to include test results in the process of identifying good and bad teachers.
“Some of those testing results need to be used to help identify schools that are struggling so that we can give them additional interventions, but they also need to be part of how we evaluate teachers,” said Cunningham.
Across the country, teachers, principals and parents are pushing back against the test results carrying so much weight. More than 1,400 New York principals signed onto a letter to the state education commissioner that said the tests are deeply flawed. The outgoing Education Commissioner in Texas called standardized testing “the heart of the vampire.” Jenny LaCoste-Caputo of the Texas Association of School Administrators said, “This one test has become the single measure for a student’s success, for a school’s success, and that’s what is absolutely wrong.”
by Jim Roope, CNN
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast from Jim Roope about a class that teaches teens to communicate face to face.
Los Angeles (CNN) It's an often-observed teenage obsession: texting. Kids today spend an awful lot of time bent over cell phones sending text messages to each other. In fact, you can observe them sitting within normal talking distance from each other yet instead of talking, they'll be texting a conversation.
"I see that the kids are so involved in texting that they shy away from communicating face-to-face," said Lori Kelman, founder of the program 'Enhancing Teen Communication.'
"They bury themselves in text, hide behind texting, will say things through text that they wouldn't in a million years say to somebody face-to-face. That's not a good thing," Kelman said.
Kelman, who spent most of her professional life as a broadcaster for Los Angeles radio station KFWB and in corporate marketing and public relations, said she got the idea for the program when attending her daughter's class one day and as the kids would stand to introduce themselves and talk a little about themselves, many could barely string two words together. On child she said, stood there, hands folded, staring up for five minutes, not able to utter a word. "My heart broke for her," Kelman said.
This lack of fundamental communications skills, she believes, is a result of texting technology. It can hurt teens, she says, as they interview for jobs or college.
By Jim Roope, CNN
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on the petition to change the MPAA rating for the film "Bully" from Jim Roope.
(CNN) – According to the documentary, “Bully,” 13,000,000 kids will be bullied this year in the U.S. The film follows the lives of five kids who are the victims of bullies. The Motion Picture Association of America has given the documentary an “R” rating because of strong language, but a 17-year-old bullying victim is trying to change that.
Katy Butler said she was bullied almost everyday at her Ann Arbor, Michigan middle school.
“I was out as a lesbian, and there were a lot of kids in my school who were really not OK with that,” said Butler. “They taunted me and bullied me and harassed and they slammed my hand in my locker and broke my finger,” she said.
Butler said the MPAA's “R” rating will mean the very kids who should see it, meaning middle-and-high-school-aged kids, cannot see it.
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast Jim Roope tell the story of how the former head of the teachers union (who very much disliked charter schools) will now become its principal. And he is getting help from a former school board member who disliked the teachers union as much as the former union head once disliked charters.
By Jim Roope, CNN
(CNN) A cheating scandal at a Los Angeles charter school system last year has resulted in an unlikely partnership in the creation of a new charter school system.
Last year, John Allen, the executive director of Crescendo Charter Schools, a six-campus charter school system in L.A., allegedly told teachers at all six schools to unseal the state standardized tests and create a lesson plan that teaches directly to the test.
Some of the teachers refused Allen’s request as they viewed it as cheating. First grade teacher Elise Sargent said their jobs were threatened if they didn’t comply.
“There was a lot of confusion going on,” said Sargent. “For a while there was a lot of undercover talks about how we are going to get this out. We needed to make sure the Los Angeles Unified School District knows about this,” she said.
Sargent said the hesitation came with the fact that the teachers at Crescendo were not unionized and so were not sure the union would help or protect them. Sargent said they braved a call to then teachers’ union president A.J. Duffy.
By Jim Roope, CNN Radio
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on open enrollment from Jim Roope.
(CNN) Parents in Los Angeles may soon have the opportunity to apply to send their children to whatever school they choose. Open enrollment, the policy of eliminating school district boundaries, could, however, harm certain segments of the economy. One segment that could be adversely affected is real estate.
“Open enrollment is kind of a mirror to me of busing without the bus ride,” said Stuart Venner, a national real estate adviser and consultant. “People want pride in their neighborhood, pride in their area. When you have people coming in that may disrupt their way of life really, I think it’s going to lower and hurt the housing market in an area that doesn’t need to be hurt any worse right now.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District is considering open enrollment to stem the tide of kids leaving district schools for charter schools. But L.A. real estate agent Leti Venderstein doesn’t like the idea.
“I think it’s going to impact [real estate],” she said. “Values probably will come down in certain areas, what you would call good school districts.”
By Cheryl Castro, CNN
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on music in the classroom from Cheryl Castro.
(CNN) – There is much research to show that music can improve academic performance. But what about behavior? Kindergarten teacher Shelvia Ivey sees the effects every day in her classroom.
"It's fun to see the shy ones blossom and music is a way for them to do that," Ivey said. For "some of the more aggressive children who have a hard time controlling their instincts, it's a time for them to express themselves, too and it's easier for them to control their instincts. And they're allowed to be expressive, and be unique."
The kids in Ivey's class are bright-eyed and about as focused as you can expect from 5-year-olds and younger. About a dozen of them hop, dance and clap along at a metro Atlanta Primrose school, a private school that offers programs for infants through kindergarten.
Over the fall, Primrose added The Music Class to the curriculum at all 240 of its schools spread across 16 states. Jason Caesar’s two active young sons, 2-year-old Kingston and 3-year-old Phoenix, attend the school. "The music definitely tames the savage 3-year-old," Caesar said.