"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cheaters Never Win...

Big news from Atlanta. Teachers, principals, and likely even central office administrators have cheated -- or ignored cheating -- on the state achievement tests.

Schools matter posted this report about the scandal…
The full Georgia Office of Special Investigators' report was just posted online -- no time to read its 400+ pages, let alone digest them, but a quick scan finds these superb quotations (it is informative to substitute the words "Bush and Obama administrations" and "Arne Duncan" in appropriate places to see the national implications of this story).
WHY CHEATING OCCURRED

Three primary conditions led to widespread cheating on the 2009 CRCT"

- The targets set by the district were often unreasonable, especially given their cumulative effect over the years. Additionally, the administration put unreasonable pressure on teachers and principals to achieve targets;

- A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation spread throughout the district; and,

- Dr Hall and her administration emphasized test results and public praise to the exclusion of integrity and ethics."

http://www.ajc.com/news/volume-3volume-3-conclusions-why-1000781.html p. 350

and

"What has become clear through our investigation is that ultimately, the data and meeting 'targets' by whatever means necessary, became more important than true academic progress" (p. 356).
Diane Ravitch commented to CBS News that the law, NCLB, gives teachers and principals "an incentive to cheat."

The pressure to cheat in order to reach unreasonable expectations (such as every child proficient by 2014) is not just Atlanta's problem. In an article in the Huffington Post, Joy Resmovits said,
Atlanta is not alone in allegedly gaming its numbers. Schaeffer said cheating headlines have popped up in the last month alone from Baltimore, Norfolk, Va., Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Florida.
The Christian Science Monitor called this America's biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal.
It's also a tacit indictment, critics say, of politicians putting all bets for improving education onto high-stakes tests that punish and reward students, teachers, and principals for test scores.

"When test scores are all that matter, some educators feel pressured to get the scores they need by hook or by crook," says Mr. Schaeffer. "The higher the stakes, the greater the incentive to manipulate, to cheat."
And what about the big bad teachers union? Well, it turns out that, if Atlanta Public Schools administration had listened to the union, the scandal might have been nipped in the bud. Think Progress reports:
Interestingly, one aspect of the scandal that has not been covered by the major media is the role of the local teacher unions. While Atlanta’s teacher unions are largely powerless when it comes to actual bargaining and strike powers — unlike many of their northern counterparts, they currently have no collective bargaining rights enshrined into law — one local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was the very first body to internally report cheating to the district superintendent, Dr. Beverly Hall
What happened to the teachers union report?
AFT President Randi Weingarten provided the following statement to ThinkProgress: “The governor’s investigation found that Atlanta Federation of Teachers was the first to expose cheating in December 2005, but the union’s complaint was ignored and sadly, subsequent whistle-blowers in the district were punished and silenced."
Standardized tests, as they are commonly used, are damaging for public education and public school teachers. In state after state, the US DOE plan of judging teachers in part by test scores, is becoming a reality.

Don't get me wrong...I don't approve of cheating. No one likes a cheater. What the principals, teachers, and central office administrators (who covered up the cheating) did was wrong. It was wrong professionally, morally and politically.

Still the current educational climate in America, which has been building for the last 10+ years, is just begging teachers, administrators and entire school systems to cheat. The Texas miracle (more info here) upon which NCLB is based was nothing more than a cheating scandal.

It's a no win situation.
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