Skip to main content

As a twelve-year teacher, it doesn't shock me to hear story after story highlighting the same truth: high-stakes testing can lead to a culture of cheating by educators in a school district.  The biggest one by far this year was in Atlanta, GA, where Beverly Hall (former superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools) and 34 other teachers and principals were indicted for racketeering, conspiracy, influencing witnesses, theft and lying.  Hall herself faces up to 45 years in prison.

Hall was honored as Superintendent of the Year and was hosted at the White House for her achievements raising the test scores of minority students.  However, the meteoric rise of scores raised more than just eyebrows: it raised suspicions too.  When math proficiency rates in a school rise from 24% to 86% in only one year, people stop saying "Gift from God" and start thinking "Deal with the Devil".

Ultimately, 178 teachers and principals are suspected to be complicit in altering student tests.  82 confessed to doing so.

None of this surprises me.  When higher test scores are linked to pay checks, classroom funding and even employment, cheating no longer indicates a loss of integrity: it becomes a calculated career move.  What does surprise me are the comments I see from teachers and parents, dismissing this scandal as merely the result of a lot of bad eggs in one public school basket.  "I would never consider encouraging cheating amongst my students, or altering the results", says one commenter.  "Unfortunately, the Atlanta public school apple barrel is full of rotten apples", says another.

How do you find enough rotten apples to fill a school district?  Simple: you make them. Follow me below the fold for more.

I was raised by a strong mother who taught me that women never deserved to be abused (stick with me, this is pertinent).  When I left home for college, I was firm in my belief that no man would ever dare raise a hand to me, lest he find himself flat on his back, watching my feet as I marched out the door.

Then my sophomore year, I met Chris.

The story is no doubt familiar to many abused women.  Hell, I'd heard it many times myself, but in my blind self-certainty I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late.  He was charming and self-assured.  His attentions flattered me, and when he started to separate me from my friends, I only saw that he wanted to spend all his time with me.  When he started to get angry with me, I could certainly see why: I was still a naïve and sheltered young woman, while he was a man in the working world already.  He was more mature than I.

In September, I was sure that I wasn't the type of woman who could ever be abused.  By June (when my mother finally found me and brought me home), I was sure I had deserved every harsh word he used to destroy me.  I'm still staggered by how quickly he tore me down.

No woman ever starts a relationship believing this man will be the one that abuses her.  By that same token, teachers don't accept a job offer from a school district believing that someday, their principal will lock them in a classroom and require them to change test scores.  They get to that point by degrees.  The trap had closed on them months, possibly even years, before.  They just didn't realize it.

High-stakes testing sets the trap.  Standardized test scores should only be one piece of evidence among many that measure the effectiveness of a school: they're a snapshot of one day in a student's life.  Imagine your boss picking one random work day (May 3rd, for example) and using your group's productivity on that day alone to determine your bonus or your future employment.  Would the evaluation be fair, especially if two of your colleagues called in sick that day and one had lost his mother three days prior?  Would you be tempted to "manipulate the results to make things more fair", especially if you knew there was no appeal process? (there's no mulligans in state testing)

Teachers are the most obvious target for this, but the principals were caught in the same trap: Superintendent Hall fired 90% of those who didn't reach her testing targets:

Dr. Hall was known to rule by fear. She gave principals three years to meet their testing goals. Few did; in her decade as superintendent, she replaced 90 percent of the principals.

Teachers and principals whose students had high test scores received tenure and thousands of dollars in performance bonuses. Otherwise, as one teacher explained, it was “low score out the door.”

Ms. Parks, a 17-year veteran, said a reason she had kept silent so long was that as a single mother, she could not afford to lose her job.

Teachers and principals who are fired from their jobs face a hard road.  Future school districts always call your previous employers, even if you left of your own accord.  Being fired from your position (even if 90% of your colleagues were also fired, indicating a problem with your district's expectations) is a big black mark against you.  Not only that, but a teacher's pay is tied to years of experience in a district and education level.  It's common practice that only 5 years of longevity can be transferred to a new district: if you leave any school district 5 years after you started teaching, you're going to be taking a significant pay cut.

I'm not excusing the behavior of the teachers or principals.  Regardless of whether or not they felt they had a choice, they did have one.  But the choice was made harder because many of them didn't realize what was coming.  You can only avoid the trap if you see it before it closes on you.  Chewing your foot off afterwards is always more painful.

My school faces this same trap.  As a Title I school (based on the percentage of low-income students in our population), our funding and our choices are tied to No Child Left Behind.  Title I schools that are deemed failing schools for more than 3 years have their funding cut.  Their administration is fired.  Their teachers can be fired or involuntarily transferred.  They can be turned into a charter school or closed entirely.

We've been a failing school for two years now, never mind that we have test scores 20 points higher than the state average and the highest test scores of any school in our district.  The pressure to raise test scores is always there, and it's increasing.  Some of the changes have been good (a comprehensive math intervention program, for example), but some are more troubling.  We've temporarily suspended math lessons to implement standardized test preparation (testing is a month away).  We'll be suspending science instruction for a double-dose of math after spring break.  Whenever I express discomfort over having to drop science for math, or teaching test prep strategies instead of problem-solving strategies students will need later in all of their classes, I'm always met with a shrug and the response of, "We need to raise our test scores".

Sound familiar?

This is how good schools become corrupted.  If you want to make apple cider, you don't look for rotten apples: you start with good apples and create the right environment to turn them.  If you want a school willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the impossible, you start with good people and create an environment where they can't stay unless they turn too.

Originally posted to Bananaphone on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Thank You - N/T (5+ / 0-)

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 12:59:59 PM PDT

  •  What the solution (5+ / 0-)

    We need to test kids and we need to evaluate teachers. What's the solution?

    •  A tricky question, one that may need another diary (10+ / 0-)

      Answering that question will take more room than I have comment space.  But I'll give a basic overview of issues I see:

      1.  Use state tests that evaluate what you are looking for.  if you want math students who can use the skills they have in the real world, design tests that require more than basic calculation.  If the test focuses on "can they add, subtract, multiply and divide decimals", you're forcing me to focus on that too, even though a future boss can buy a 99-cent calculator that will do the same thing faster.  If you want them to problem-solve, you need a test that evaluates that.

      2. Evaluate long-term, not just on one day.  A one-day math test tells a misleading story if the child's grandfather died that morning (and yes, that has happened before).  If all you know about this student's math mastery is one single data point, you know nothing about this student.  I evaluate this student every day in dozens of different ways: I can usually tell you before the student opens the test what the score will be, even if he or she is having an off-day.

      3. Take multiple forms of assessment into account.  A good administrator doesn't simply look at test scores to evaluate a teacher.  They look at student grades, comments from parents and teachers and students, lesson plans, how I work with a whole class, how I work one-on-one, curriculum development, the dynamics of my classroom population, professional development, how I collaborate with fellow teachers, records of parent communication...all of these are part of my job, and the time I spend in front of a class is minuscule compared to the time I spend behind the scenes, making sure the time I spend teaching is the best I can make it.

      4. Recognize that I ultimately do not control test scores.  As I tell my students, education is not a spectator sport.  The best teacher in the world can teach nothing to a student who isn't ready to learn.  If you believe that I can't make you learn, you're absolutely right.  We need to consider that some students, for whatever reason (bias against women, traumatic abuse, lack of food or shelter, etc), are not ready to learn and stop punishing teachers for not accomplishing the impossible.  Actually, we need to protect the kids first, so that they are ready to learn.  

    •  Teachers routinely test kids in their class (10+ / 0-)

      and give them grades. Teachers are routinely evaluated, mostly by word of mouth: ask any involved parent in the community and they will be able to give you a pretty good run down about the teachers in the local school.

      Teachers can be more formally evaluated by more senior teachers (if they were given time during the school day to do so) or by administrators willing to get off their butts comfortable office chairs and spend some significant time observing in classrooms.

      Tell me, how do you evaluate the other professionals you rely on? Say, the architect who designed your house? Chances are you don't even know who designed your house, but on the off chance you do, you probably relied on word of mouth and the judgement of professional organizations consisting of other architects.

      You want to know what the solution is? First define the problem.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 02:45:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's okay to test kids, but you have to understand (5+ / 0-)

      what you're asking and what you get.

      When you're looking at lots of kids, you have a different piece of information than a single kids.

      If you want to evaluate teachers, you have to be willing to walk into their classroom and see how the kids interact with the teacher, see how the teacher runs a lesson, evaluate the growth in the kids as people over a whole year, and ... compare it to what you know the applicant pool is for that position in your locale.

      We have to trust principals to evaluate their staff. It makes more sense to spend more time thinking about principals and then trusting them to make the right decisions about the people they (should) see every day.

      Test scores are the beginning of a conversation. They are not the sole communication nor are they the end of the conversation. A crappy teacher can have students with great scores - you don't want great scores to prevent you from removing someone who needs to go - and a very good teacher can have students with poor scores. (The same is true for whole schools.)

      Data on a single teacher is incredibly noisy. I've watched it in my daughter's school, where I have been inside all the classrooms and met the kids, and concluded that it varies all over the place for no obvious reason. Only very large and consistent trends outside the norm for other staff are really actionable.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:47:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Common sense expectations (4+ / 0-)

      100% of persons proficient in a given skill has never occurred in the history of the human race.  It makes as much sense to say that 100% of students will be proficient in communication arts and math by 2014 as it does to say that all physicians will cure 100% of their patients or that all cities will be 100% crime free.

      In the mean time, the frantic scramble to achieve a goal that can't possibly be achieved is turning schools into places that kill the desire to learn.

      Light is seen through a small hole.

      by houyhnhnm on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:43:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  People who ask this question (2+ / 0-)

      may have a scenario in their minds in which an achievement test is given at the end of the year. What's wrong with that, indeed?

      That's not what is going on. Testing is going on for two or more weeks out of every quarter. Instruction is completely disrupted during that time. The library is closed.  Computers are unavailable. I would say that students may spend 75% of the school year at the maximum actually in their classrooms learning.

      Light is seen through a small hole.

      by houyhnhnm on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:53:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Resist quantification! (0+ / 0-)

      There is a reason why governments and administrators adore tests.  Tests turn difficult humanity into easy numbers.  Tests allow administrators to get by without thinking or making real decisions.  Tests let them off the hook from having to really work with teachers and students and parents, to figure out what their real needs are, or to figure out what could really make a difference to their schools.  

      Quantification kills education.  It kills teachers and students alike by turning them into mindless, fleshless numbers.  It even kills administrators, because it prevents them from doing their real jobs.  Quantification always has the same goals -- to strengthen the strong and eliminate the weak, when what is needed is exactly the opposite. A real education system will seek the weaknesses to make them strong, take the numbers and make them human.  If it's one-size-fits-all, then it's not education.

      Quantification kills humanity.  It kills culture.  It kills the arts.  It kills creative thought.  It turns everything into a toxic and undifferentiated pink slime of numbers, waiting to be financialized by the pink-headed neanderthal trolls who occupy state legislatures and governorships of North Carolina and beyond.  

      So here's a proposal: A different test for everyone.  No two people should ever be allowed to take the same test. Don't allow children and teachers to be replaced by numbers.  

    •  No we don't (0+ / 0-)
      We need to test kids.
      That's the solution.

      This nation won the space race before standardized testing was invented. Before recess, art, music, and phys ed were cut to make room for test prep. Before we started dumbing down curricula to eliminate critical reasoning and deep introspection in favor of busy-work that replicates standardized test Q&A styles.

      We wonder why students leave school uneducated, it's because we've had to cleave education out of the curriculum, in favor of test-taking strategies.

  •  Republishing to Teachers Lounge n/t (5+ / 0-)
  •  Fear will keep the teachers in line... (5+ / 0-)

    The Superintendents now have direct control over their teachers...

    Fear will keep the teachers in line...

    Fear of the power to hire and fire at will...

    /snark (With apologies to Peter Cushing.)

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:11:08 PM PDT

  •  No Child Failed for Profit (4+ / 0-)

    Lets get profit out of testing. These companies make a ton of money off of failing kids and making the tests the most important thing in education. By removing their profit margin we can get back control of testing and education and make it work for the children again.

    My suggestion is simple and easy. Bring together a bunch of educators and skilled people together to make a standardized exam that can be given on computers for free in every state and use their rhetoric against them. " Why is governor, or superintendent x spending your tax dollars on this test when they can use this test for free?"

    •  Sorry thoughtspitter (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alwaysquestion, nomandates, basket

      but the Bulgarians or the Romanians are putting together something similar for their students, and the French have had a Baccalaureat Examination since 1808.

      It should be obvious, then, that this will never work for America, because it isn't exceptional... all those foreigners are doing it.    

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:18:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Computer administered tests are going to require (4+ / 0-)

      hundreds of millions of dollars of new investment.


      - We have schools in America without high speed internet. Most are rural and require new infrastructure.
      - We have school districts in America with no dedicated IT staff. You can't have the network fail in the middle of a high stakes, high security exam.
      - Most schools only have a lab, not enough to rotate all the kids through the testing in the normal timeframe.
      - Computers used for testing have to be stripped of all access to unallowed content, meaning that you need IT infrastructure to wipe and clone and then rebuild the computers in between testing time and learning time.
      - Most classrooms don't have enough outlets to run a computer for every student. Some schools don't have enough amps to add more computers.
      - Computers fail quickly in hot temperatures, and they dump additional heat into a room. Many schools in America do not have air conditioning.

      That's just a taste of the infrastructure problem ahead.

      Oh, and the requirement for schools to support computer administered tests starts in 2014-2015.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:49:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You wrote this very clearly (7+ / 0-)

    and in a way that I think is very honest and appropriate.

    I'm going to add another little worm, which is that the thing about "Program Improvement" is that it's like a lot of the ironically named Orwellian Bush-era legislation names: I have yet to meet a single educator who believes that the Program Improvement regimen improves a school or makes things better for the kids in it.

    Think about that.

    Even the Obama Administration said so in one of their press releases, where they were heralding the trade of the blackmail of draconian PI status for a slightly different set of draconian chains under RTTT.

    We call it "Program Improvement" and what it does is take away funding, narrow choices for kids, remove creativity, and destroy culture and continuity.

    Even if you're not worried for your own job... there's some pressure to stay out of Program Improvement at almost any cost for the sake of the students you serve. I feel it as a trustee, and I'm not paid. My interest is only in having the best school we can have with the allotted resources, and avoiding the dreaded PI label is as critical to that goal as avoiding the Eye of Sauron.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:01:10 PM PDT

  •  I commend you for writing this point of view. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, annetteboardman

    Seriously, I think home life has the highest factor in the probability of success.  I think most of this is up to the tax payer to understand what is needed to bring tough luck students up to learning level.  I have seen moms bring in their kid to a 'schools of choice' (Michigan) and that kid still does very poorly.  No wonder.  Tough luck mom can't figure out what the hell she is doing wrong.  Which is that she gave birth and didn't change her life, so the kid lives the same life for all hours not sheltered in the school building.  Which set of hours count for more?

    And therein lies what should be the fork in the road for many kids.  The feds and states need to understand they need to provide programs that give kids the 360 degrees.  Frankly, life classes that give kids the idea of what could well as extra instruction to get them up to snuff.  Yes, kids will see their parents through new eyes, but they will anyway soon enough of they had any hopes at all.

    Longer hours and after school programs, free food, free materials, access to computers and computer programs.  Safe shelter in some cases.  Pump some money into our youth now and prevent prisons sucking up the money later.

    I really do believe we are in a crisis situation with our lower class or poverty children.  Have been for some time.   Our politicians talk about opportunity, but that opportunity comes only with programs that give the path out of poverty.  And that costs money.

    •  24% of American kids live in poverty right now (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alwaysquestion, Eikyu Saha

      A larger percentage have at some time in their lives.

      This is unimaginable, unconscionable. How do we permit it?

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:51:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You know, I have repub friends that point out (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the never ending cycle of poverty is due to people having babies they cannot afford.  Have the first and can't afford that one?  Then stop there.  Don't have the next one, or two, or more.  I totally get that.  People can birth their way into poverty and no one wants to pay for those mistakes.  I only had one because I can easily afford one in the lifestyle I want to raise.  But I always argue that it is the repubs policies that do not want women to have access to birth control and furthermore, they do not want sex education classes.  So the focus has to be put on prevention to begin with and pile on top of that a robust program I briefly mentioned above to get this turned around.  No one in poverty wants to be in poverty.  But they need help getting out and preventing them not falling in by better life choices.  And it all involves investing in education.  Go figure.

  •  Most teachers are better than this (0+ / 0-)

    As I have said before on this subject, I think you (and others) sell most teachers short when you imply they would succumb to committing fraud.  Most teachers I know are far too honorable, and their personal moral values and professional ethics would not permit their participation.

    Much of the "high-stakes" nature of the tests were set by the superintendent, not Georgia law.  Beverly Hall demanded that principals meet her goals for her own personal glory and $$$$ (close to $600,000 in bonuses alone).  

    Nothing wrong with the "bad apple" label when it applies.  You do need to look for bad apples among cops, doctors, nurses, engineers, and teachers.   Further, there is no way you can ever assure you started with all good apples.  Remember, the number of teachers involved in the Atlanta testing fraud, disturbing as it is, still represents a small percentage of Atlanta teachers.  We can discuss the range of causes that led to this situation, including the obsession with testing.  But unethical, bad-apple educators has to be listed among the essential causal factors.

    •  Its not fraud if you don't believe it. (0+ / 0-)

      If you think you are just putting on a show for irrational bureaucrats with meaningless test scores, "cheating" isn't the same as fraud.  "Fraud" is the false presentation of something worthless as something of value:  I sell you a fake necklace but tell you the diamonds are real and you believe me.

      But, if I sell you a fake necklace and tell you it is real because I am required to, and you know the necklace is fake but pretend it is real because you are required to, does it really matter if the fake necklace is made of plastic or glass?  If the whole transaction is based on a fraudulent pretense, then there can really be no fraud in the transaction itself.

      In a round-about way, what I'm saying is if there is no confident in the meaning of the test scores, the whole system is a fraud and cheating will become endemic.

      Legally you can still get in trouble.  But, if I were on a jury listening to principals and teachers explain why they thought the standardized tests were bunk, and how instead of wasting time on them or fighting them they simply faked the scores so they could move on to better educational formats, I wouldn't morally fault them.

      Of course, if they used their fraudulent test scores to achieve national fame as educational wunderkids, that would be a different story.  So I guess the moral is - the biggest cheats are probably those that score perfectly average....

      To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

      by ban48 on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:51:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, so the scores were fraudulent (0+ / 0-)

        and the teachers and principals were frauds, but no fraud was committed in a legal sense.  I'm fine with that.

        But don't forget that many of them subsequently lied about what they had done to investigators.  Did they still think it was a "show for irrational bureaucrats"?

        They should be convicted of the appropriate crimes they committed--I am not a criminal prosecutor.  

        I don't believe they necessarily should serve time, but they should be fined, perhaps some healthy portion of the financial losses incurred by the affected schools, and they should never be allowed to teach again.

        I would also advocate that other teachers shun them.

        •  well, obviously if you use fraudulent test scores (0+ / 0-)

          to achieve national fame, you are both legally and morally compromised.  Dr. Hall is getting what she deserves.  Her fraud not only deceived the parents and the school boards, but it built up the credentials of the testing process itself.

          BTW - Has anyone done a correlation study on cheating and success in business...???

          To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

          by ban48 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:05:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I bet that correlation is low (0+ / 0-)

            if you account for other differences, like being born on 3rd base (see Bush II for a life example).

            For most people cheating can probably help with short-term success.  But once they get into grad school or med school or law school, or into a certain level job, then cheating won't be enough.  Their basic incompetence will shine through.  Evolution has selected us to have innate skills in sniffing out cheaters.  Sometimes you need to trust your instincts.

      •  That's a very interesting perspective. (0+ / 0-)

        I can't support it, but I think it's another part of how people sell themselves on it under very high pressure.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:53:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is definitely a tough one, and I even scaled (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          back my original comment.  From a moral viewpoint, if you think the testing is irrational, then cheating is not a moral dilemma.  If you think the testing is harmful in that it can discourage kids, then cheating could be considered a moral imperative.  But if you are deceiving parents who place high value on testing and their kids are simply not good at it, that is itself a moral problem.

          Finally you have the legal aspect.  You might think it is bunk, your whole district might think it is bunk, but cheating can still land you in legal trouble.  Not a lot of people would be willing to risk this.

          So, I think you'll end up with a massive talent flight from teaching and a massive don't-ask-don't-tell policy.

          BTW - I'm not an educator but I am the kid who always aced these types of tests.  "Training for the test" is bunk education and wouldn't work on a kid like me.  High test scores for me were an effect but not a cause or a motivator.  It was always critical thinking, not process or rote memorization, that allowed me to succeed.

          To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

          by ban48 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:00:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Sure, bad apples exist... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, sparkysmom

      But it's the "I would never" assumption that worries me.  I'd like to believe I'd never change test scores, but then again, I used to believe my professionalism and dedication would prevent me from spending a month reviewing 200 released questions from our state standardized test during class.  Or skipping science so I could prep them even more.  I was incredibly uncomfortable with it then.  I still am.  Two years ago, I refused to do it.  Yet I'm doing it now.

      I'm willing to bet not one of those bad apples woke up one day realizing they were unethical.  No one thinks they're the bad guy.  We rationalize behaviors we're uncomfortable with by telling ourselves "I'm just keeping the wheels on the wagon" or "I have to or I'll get fired" or "I'll let the team down if I refuse" or "they'll blame me if we fail".  The problem is, most of us believe that discomfort is a warning sign that we're approaching unethical behavior.  It's not.  If you feel uncomfortable with your decision but you still follow through with it, you've already crossed your personal ethics line.  As the old saying goes, "we've already established you're virtue is negotiable, now we're just haggling over your price".

      •  I'm right there with you Bananaphone... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tom Anderson, Be Skeptical

        I teach in Florida and my students have their End Of Course Exam in a few weeks. I'm appalling myself with the amount of test prep I'm doing, instead of teaching. And I'm shocked at how stressed out I am about the scores -- bad dreams every night and acid reflux every day. These test scores should be a reflection on the students, but they are more a competition between science teachers who are pitted against one another. Our pass rates are routinely bandied about by administrators, parents, and even the news media.

        But even more ludicrous... my performance evaluation score for the year and possible bonus (which is tied to overall school grade) are not even determined by the scores of the students in my own classes... some geniuses decided that we must use the scores of the lowest performing 25% of the school, even if those kids never cross my threshold. So I'm making myself ill teaching my students to pass the test for my course, but the scores cannot help me in any tangible way, only harm my reputation. Let the good times roll.

  •  And what about the kids (0+ / 0-)

    in this Atlanta school district. I'm sure many of them could give a shit about their test scores. But what about the many that are really trying. Will this taint them in any way?

    Coming out of industry, this reminds me of factories that proudly post " 502 Days Without a First-Time Accident!" You have injured employees working that are too afraid to report an injury because they don't want to be the one to end the "streak" and have their supervisor and coworkers up their ass. No more free pizza on Friday. About the only way it is broken is when someone gets injured so badly they can't hide it.

    Test scores, work records, truckers with signs on their trucks proclaiming "1 million miles without an accident". Piling more pressure on people in a pressure cooker society.

    I feel bad for these teachers. I would bet 99% of them didn't want to cheat. They could have quit? Yeah sure, there's so many good paying, family supporting jobs out there, they should have quit and scooped one of them up.....

    "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

    by fugwb on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 03:37:37 AM PDT

    •  Do you mean "lost time" accident? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tom Anderson

      I once worked at a place like that, and by contrast to what you describe, workers were very eager to report accidents.

      Because that mean to avoid the "lost time" - the supervisors would have to come up with an easier job for them to do . .. .  of course, there was a fine line to walk, since if any one worker got too many such injuries, he or she eventually * would * get a reputation . ..

      •  First time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tom Anderson

        is where an employee gets an injury and reports to medical dept no matter how small. This is the way it was when I retired. The company absolutely wanted no injuries. If there was an injury it was investigated, no matter how small, and it was always assumed it was the employees fault.

        "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

        by fugwb on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 08:43:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Indeed, the key to cheating is to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, alwaysquestion, Tom Anderson

    do it in a somewhat believable manner

    When math proficiency rates in a school rise from 24% to 86% in only one year, people stop saying "Gift from God" and start thinking "Deal with the Devil".
    for example, I recall Homer Simpson looking at Bart's report card saying "son, I am so proud of you - F's are so easy to turn into A's but you knew I'd never buy that, so you went for B- 's "
    •  D'oh! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      The principals or administrators at the next higher level are even more clueless than Homer Simpson.

      •  The thing about Homer is that if you watch (0+ / 0-)

        the first 3 or 4 episodes, * he * was the voice of reason in an otherwise chaotic and crazy family.

        Somehow his Fox handlers turned him into a bubbling idiot, rather quickly.  For the life of me I don't know why he acquiesced, probably was offered a handsome dollar sum, I'd think.

        Thus, in the back of my mind, I think it's all an act and he's really a lot smarter than most people realize .

  •  No Child's Behind Left (0+ / 0-)

    Mission accomplished.

    Race to the Bottom.
    Becoming very profitable for private education companies.

    Schools closing.  Waiting lists for sketchy charter schools.  Cheating scandals.

    The revenge of the segregationists is almost complete.  We are witnessing the calculated destruction of public education.

    It's not rotten apples.  It's policy.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 01:43:38 PM PDT

  •  People need to stop whining about tests (0+ / 0-)

    Seriously, judging by a minority of comments(but believed by enough of a minority that I have to address it), it seems like the testing process is to blame, not the cheaters.

    Face it. Testing is the way of the world. It is a practical metric to use when you have to admit thousands and thousands of students to many universities each year.Now we can improve testing. Not every test has to be a brief testing scenario. Someone mentioned problem solving situations. You coudl just as easily do that in a testing scenario with a different setup. With computer software, there are ways to make tests more than simple multiple choice tests. Use the technology to make it possible.

    Yes, there isa small minority that just lack the ability to test well despite knowing the subject well enough. Unfortunately, mass policy will have a few victims and those victims need to compensate for that by excelling in internships, first jobs to progress in life.

    But stop the freaking whining and work to make tests better instead of trying to eliminate them. Most of the world runs on tests.

    •  The teachers have ZERO input concerning testing. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tom Anderson

      These tests are designed by private companies hired by state DOE's, and designed to follow legislation enacted by state legislators who don't consult anyone who has ever seen the inside of a classroom.

      My test is a joke. I have literally had to ruin my previously damned educational (imho) biology class to teach to their stupid test, which is full of minutiae that no student needs to remember and senseless choices about what is deemed important or not.

      If you do any research you'll come to realize that all this testing is big business, designed to profit corporations and consultants. And in some cases (my state included) to hand education entirely over to private corporations.

      •  Arent the people who make decisions government emp (0+ / 0-)

        So by your own admission, it is government that is screwing up the tests by not having any kind of real guidelines for tests. Just because they hired a private company is not the reason why the tests are bad. it is befcause the government employees did not reject substandard tests when the private companies submitted them. THe gatekeeper is still the government in this.

        Maybe the teachers unions around the country should make a case before school boards and force the pressure upwards to state governments to include more teacher input into making standardized tests  more than the ones hired by these private companies. I dont know the intricacies of this. If the school boards and state governments dont listen or are indifferent, maybe that is a problem of the public school system the way it is run because school boards are part of that system.

        •  Of course teachers and unions lobby, but... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Have you ever tried to have a serious conversation with a state legislator, especially a Republican one? I have been in that position a lot lately, and it is one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. (And yes, testing is one of the topics they have a hard time grasping). These are not the brightest bulbs in the box, and they clearly don't think for themselves. For instance I live in FL, and our entire testing policy and "school reform" movement is guided by Jeb! Bush... yes, the one who left office like 10 years ago. He runs a foundation that is behind the bulk of this virtual and charter school push over the past few years. These politicians do what they are told by people such as Jeb!, without question. And no amount of reason works.

          I recently had a 1.5 hour phone conversation with my state senator concerning a bill he had just championed and passed; requiring every student to take an online course to graduate was the biggest provision. It was the most extreme law of its kind in the country so far, only 3 states do it, and the other two both exempt exceptional ed students and have provisions so that things like an SAT prep course count....our bill requires the course to be virtual school or an online university course. So I asked the senator a few questions about what he knows concerning the academic research about online learning, the access to high speed internet of students in Florida, etc -- the legislature hadn't even asked the questions before passing a law requiring all students to take an online course! I asked him if he was aware of the hardware and software requirements to complete an online course (it requires a computer with a video card, speakers, newer operating systems, etc). They hadn't considered that either. Seriously, these people just took the legislation WORD FOR WORD from Jeb!s foundation and ran it through their majority, with no research or question.

          I asked him if he was aware of the impact of this legislation on public schools, because there was no funding attached to the measure. He had no idea why schools would need funding -- he hadn't even considered that we would need to add computer labs and have the approximately 25% of students who can't do these classes at home complete them at school, because our graduation rate (hence our school grade and funding!) depend on it. He seriously had not even considered that an issue would come up: he hadn't considered exceptional ed students who need academic support, students in poverty who need a computer to take the course, etc. How insane is that??? And of course the teacher's union on the state and national level lobbied against this insanity, to no avail as usual.

          Teachers unions and even individual teachers like myself work HARD lobbying school boards and legislators, but it falls on deaf ears. We work like crazy to defeat idiotic legislation, but it's a never-ending slog through stupidity and selfishness. Please try not to blame us for something beyond our control.

          •  One reason why I am open to public alternatives. (0+ / 0-)

            Is what you exactly talk about. Some on the right want alternatives to public schools as a trojan horse to privatize education. The reason why I want alternatives is for a family to escape republicans in public office imposing their idiocy on the public education system. It's not just testing. What about the texas textbook controversy. Or the public school districts dominated  by conservatives that want to deemphasize evolution. If I am stuck in such a state, I would not want my kids to be in such a stupid school district without having to move out of the neighborhood.

          •  By the way, thanks for that info (0+ / 0-)

            Even though it appears I may be disagreeing with you, I am actually thankful for your reply. It does give more info to someone like me whose specific views on education continue to evolve, even if in principle, I have always supported funding for public school alternatives(the extent of which varies according to what i learn).

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site