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I fully agree with those who argue that it is past time for the current testing culture to be sacked and an entirely new approach to mass, public education be developed.  That’s why I attended the Save-Our-Schools March in Washington, D.C. this summer.

But, that is at the policy level.  On a professional level, as a professional teacher, I am very clear that there are no excuses for test-cheating among teachers or administrators.  I will not voice any support for those who are caught.  And, if I find out about fellow teachers or administrators test-cheating, I will gladly and quickly blow the whistle with no second thoughts.  Why?

1.  Test-cheating is profoundly cynical.  

In general, test-cheats represent a deep cynicism about our profession by those who should be the most passionate about guarding it.  They cheapen the profession of teaching and confirm what hostile critics are saying about teachers as a group.  Our students, parents, and public deserve better.

2.  In turn, this cynicism makes life harder for students, parents, and especially those teachers who produce and guard honest test scores.  

Skewed scores mislead everyone in the process and don’t provide the feedback needed for anyone to improve for the next year.  In districts where the re-hiring of teachers is based on those false test scores, the honest teachers are punished due to apparently low scores while the test-cheats are rewarded.  Eventually, the very cynics who should not be in the classroom influencing our children are the only ones left.  Comforting, isn’t it?

3.  If a testing regimen is wrong, it is our professional and political responsibility to organize and resist.

Test-cheating in places like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. revealed a particular immediate lack of individual moral will and long-term group political laziness that is inexcusable. Yes, many of us find ourselves in life situations that sometimes make it very hard to stand up and say “no”.  Yet, many teachers across the nation who are in equally-as-hard personal situations stand up, are counted, and sometimes are fired for it when they could not afford to be fired.  And, are you really going to argue how hard it is to take political stands to those Wisconsin teachers who marched in sub-freezing temperatures this past winter and occupied their state capital?  Yea…I didn’t think so.

Those are the reasons why I won’t support test-cheating and those who perpetrate it, no matter who they are.

Background:

In case you have not been following the controversies this summer there are many good resources out there for learning about them:

Just yesterday, Valerie Straus had another good post on her Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet, about the ramifications of test-cheating.

Larry Ferlazzo has the most comprehensive listing of the strongest articles on his blog.

For those of you who like to read “top-five”-type articles this one, by Melanie Smollin,  is an especially good briefing on recent test cheating scandals.

And for those of you who buy into the reformy spin going on out there and believe that Teach for America’s golden kiddies are the answer, yes, even three TFA grads have confessed to participating in the Atlanta PS test cheating scandal.

All of these resources are good and offer good insights into the glaring problems that are created by a wooden-headed testing culture that reformy types have created.

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Comment Preferences

    •  The problem appears to be pervasive. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie, lgmcp, OklaBrett, Food Gas Lodging
      On a professional level, as a professional teacher, I am very clear that there are no excuses for test-cheating among teachers or administrators.  I will not voice any support for those who are caught.  And, if I find out about fellow teachers or administrators test-cheating, I will gladly and quickly blow the whistle with no second thoughts.

      Well, I certainly hope so. But cheating by teachers will not go away unless the whole testing system and associated incentives is radically changed.

      Human being respond to incentives, it's part of human nature
      Teachers are human beings.
      Therefore, for as long as there are incentives for teachers to cheat on behalf of their students they will do it.

      It's the same thing with stealing.

      •  traces back to Reagan and the Culture of Greed (3+ / 0-)

        and everything is OK so long if you don't get caught

      •  Yes I agree. Steven Levitt writes about (3+ / 0-)

        this in regards to rampant cheating by teachers in the Chicago school systems beginning back in 1996.  He then analyzes the various incentives that work for and against this.  

        We tend to focus on punishment and/or incentives that tha sabotage our goals.  Levitt looks at possible incentives to achieve our goals.  First we have to agree on the goals.   Achieving a certain level on a test is a much different goal than teaching a student to think and release creativity and discern a good argument from a bad on, etc.

        I am going to go pull that book out again and reread.  "Freakonomics."  

        I used to believe in Evolution until I met the Teathugs

        by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:46:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's all fine and well (0+ / 0-)

        to talk about how brave you'd be in theory. But as understand it, whistleblowers were not well-received in Atlanta. What if your administrators threatened you with a poor evaluation and blackballing you from future jobs if you didn't go along and you really, really needed the job to feed your family? The culture is corrupted, and excessive reliance on high-stakes testing has corrupted it. To pin the blame on individual teachers who are insufficiently ethical doesn't get to the root of the problem.

        Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

        by anastasia p on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 06:53:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The system truly is bad to horrible, and corrupt. (0+ / 0-)

          Your assumption, though, is that those who stood up in these circumstances and got fired somehow could afford the firing when the ones who were complicit could not.  If only it were that simple.  We liberals always seem to assume that those who go along with corruption could not afford to say no, when those who say no and suffer could somehow afford it.  Not so.

    •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

      These tests harm children and harm education. If a teacher minimize their damage, then by all means.

      Your puritanical bullshit not withstanding.

      I would also note you give yourself away. You claim on the one hand that "it is past time for the current testing culture to be sacked and an entirely new approach to mass, public education be developed."

      Yet you then claim that "Skewed scores mislead everyone in the process and don’t provide the feedback needed for anyone to improve for the next year."

      How exactly do test scores help anyone improve? And if they're so helpful, then why do you think the testing regime should be sacked?

      lol.

      •  Since I am a public school teacher, I deal (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neuroptimalian

        with the students who are sent me and the policies and laws that I agree to follow.  This is a call for honesty and for us teachers to keep our integrity while pushing for education policy that makes sense.  It is also a call to not live the undeniable and ultimate bullshit of being lazy and cheating while the rest of us are honest and get hurt in the process of.  Public servants have full responsibility to work with integrity.  That's not Puritanical or bullshit.  Thanks for the comments and the pressure.

      •  "Minimizes their damage" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neuroptimalian, OklaBrett

        by contributing to the victimization of more ethical teachers and their students?  Applying a bad system unfairly, to benefit the dishonest, in NO way makes the system better.  If anything it reinforces the canard that the honest teachers COULD make A.Y.P. no matter how disadvantaged their students,  if only they tried harder.

        Helping a few kids look better, only to see them chagrined next year or college prep time?  Not a kindness.  

        Making all the other kids look even worse through no fault of their own?  Huge problem.  

        Your desire to thumb your nose at NCLB is leading to you some very pedagogically and ethically unsound conclusions.  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:19:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think they should all cheat on all these foolish (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, Tonedevil, Happy Rockefeller

    bogus tests.  The only assessments that have any meaning are those the teachers themselves give the students for those teachers and students to measure how they are doing.  Then they should toss those out.  We need to heave this entire assembly line model of education out and then maybe students could learn something.

    •  Ha, you might appreciate my comment below n/t (0+ / 0-)

      I used to believe in Evolution until I met the Teathugs

      by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:48:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Every test is a reading test (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OklaBrett

      The problem with standardized tests is not that they don't measure useful skills -- they do.  The problem is that they measure only CERTAIN useful skills, while neglecting many others.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:12:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The only thing the measure is test prep (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OklaBrett
        •  Okay (0+ / 0-)

          but test prep includes careful reading, eliminating unlikely choices, practice in identifying and skipping things you KNOW you don't know to save time, and so on.   These skills are USEFUL.   They are simply not SUFFICIENT.  

          I left teaching in part because I wasn't willing to work in the NCLB regime.  The scorn for teachers and students was intolerable.  But don't throw the baby out with the bath water:  tests measure what they measure, and some of it is reasonable.

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 08:14:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  it comes from a culture which insists cheating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux

    is the norm.  Add to that young teachers, since older experienced teachers have a tough time landing jobs in a new district, younger teachers are more likely to be able to be molded and corrupted.
    Don't forget in Atlanta, whistleblowers and protestors were all sacked and careers were ruined.  This is very intimidating to a first or second year teacher who is told by senior staff and faculty that they must cheat or get out of teaching

    •  I wrote this post in honor of the Atlanta Whistle- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Food Gas Lodging

      blowers.  The teachers who gained temporary benefit by kissing ass and cheating cared little if anything for those teachers and admins who were fired or their careers ruined.  That's why I would have no mercy on anyone who I knew of doing the same thing.  Test-cheating is the ultimate surrender and only proves the teacher slanderers correct.

  •  How do you support or not (0+ / 0-)

    support teachers who cheat or for that matter teachers who do their job or not?  


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:31:58 PM PDT

  •  I tend to agree with you but I muse (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    When is cheating not cheating? When is cheating patriotic subversion­? The British Empire considered us colonial revolution­aries cheaters because we hid behind trees and rocks and ambushed them rather than fight out in the open. It may be the duty of those "in the know" to subvert those conditions that seek to undermine the education of our children. I'm sure some cheat to save their jobs. But not all or even most. Most teachers are dedicated to learning.
    And teaching to a test is not learning by anyone knowledgea­ble about how learning occurs.

    I spend a few months in China every year. They are puzzled by this "no child left behind" business. They tell me that they tried this rote teaching and realized it's a failure. It doesn't teach people to think for themselves or creatively­. It simply creates automatons­. We must ask ourselves, who in the halls of financial and political power want to create a nation of automatons­? Now China is transition­ing to what? What we use to have before "no child left behind"...­.teaching children how to think and process and evaluate informatio­n, use their creativity­, color outside the box,. etc.. BTW I am Not a teacher.

    I used to believe in Evolution until I met the Teathugs

    by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:37:59 PM PDT

    •  Since I am a Social Studies teacher, I follow your (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neuroptimalian

      comments completely and understand your argument.  Your comments about China are right on target.  My distinction is between actual protest which takes effort and nerve and just being lazy and trying to game a system for one's own sake without actually trying to teach in the face of all of this crappy thinking.  The first thing is courage in action, the second is just plain old lack of character. Thanks for your comments.

      •  I've conducted training with a number of (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Food Gas Lodging, OklaBrett

        groups of educators (teachers) and I've come to really appreciate the challenges you face everyday.  You are forced to function in systems that have become emotionally toxic.  My heart goes ought to you.  Keep your eye on the goal and don't let any of the other "SOBs" distract your focus.  Every day you are given the opportunity to change the world by changing a life.  

        As with many, I am still able to look back and name a  half dozen teachers who contributed significantly to the adult I became, and through me they have touched literally thousands of lives.   I salute all teachers!

        Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly - GK Chesterton

        by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:38:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If they still have freshman college (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OklaBrett

    ethics courses like they had decades ago when I went through the system, perhaps this could replace some of the moral dilemnas offered up for discussion.

    But which one could it replace?  Maybe the one where the students agonize over whether it would be OK to lie (even though lying is a mortal sin) to a Nazi who came to your door and asked if you were harboring Nazis?  Or maybe the one where the students considered whether it would be OK to commit adultery with your wife's ugly sister to increase her self esteem?  

    god, what tough, tough choices people had to face back then.  And if this diary is any indication, even right now into the present day.

    •  Yes, as you rightly demonstrate, morality is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, OklaBrett

      often complex and ambiguous.   Ethics has to do with our relationships and how our behavior adds or detracts from the rights of others and the quality of their lives.

      An argument could be made (I'm not necessarily supporting this) that the ONLY ethical behavior left to teachers IS to cheat on these tests.    It would be partly based on what is the greater good for the students, the community, etc.  

      Is this such an instance?  I am confused.  Are there other more effective and "ethical" ways to "save" the children?

      If I were a teacher dedicated to the future of my students and I was convinced that spending my time teaching to a test was severely detrimental to their lives, I could probably cheat.

      I used to believe in Evolution until I met the Teathugs

      by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:00:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The entire system pretty much sucks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gc10

        or as Bart Simpson says, sucks and blows at the same time.

        On one hand, there does need to be some modicum of accountability.  OTOH, doing nothing but standardized testing kills our only advantage we currently have ove Asia - i.e., allowing our kids to be just a tad creative!

      •  sorry, I must add to my post (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OklaBrett

        What I do believe is that educational priorities and process ought to be decided by the best educators we have and not by politicians either at the national level, the school board level or any level in between.

        I used to believe in Evolution until I met the Teathugs

        by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:06:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Certainly it is a temptation. It is pressure that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Food Gas Lodging

        threatens to distort one's teaching constantly, and is an ever present set of pressures.  I do not buy the argument that surrendering my honesty and integrity are the only or even best way to protest.  Cheating is, in fact, the worst and least effective way to protest.  The best immediate forms of protest that I have heard of were teachers who encouraged parents to refuse their children being tested.  But, see how even that involves taking a public stand rather than skulking around or kissing a corrupt administrator's ass?

        •  Yes, I agree with you. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OklaBrett

          I'm just making the case that sometimes integrity is not always clear.  And I would not ever say that cheating was a good thing and could not support it apart from a last resort in the face of extraordinary circumstances.

          Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Luteran Pastor and leader fo the "Confessing (underground) Church of Germany during the Third Reich, participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  While he knew murder was an absolute wrong, a sin, and that wrong can never be justified he went ahead anyway.  He wrote:  I made the choice to sin for the sake of the German people, to save the nation, and will gladly suffer the consequence of my sin."  You will see his name in the "Hall of Remembrance" at the National Holocaust Museum.

          He was willing to break a moral law for a greater good.  But one cannot do this without undermining ethics unless they also expect and are willing to suffer the practical and moral consequences.    Not unlike MLK Jr..... willingly going to jail for breaking an unjust law.  It is in suffering the consequences that the law is finally revealed to be unjust.

          Having said this, if you are a teacher I salute you!  You deserve the deepest admiration and respect from our society.  That you may not be receiving it these days, is no reflection on teachers, and is certainly a scourge on our nation.

          Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly - GK Chesterton

          by gc10 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 04:06:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Oops, that should say harboring Jews! (0+ / 0-)

      perhaps it would have behooved me to have taken remedial English instead of ethics!

    •  What? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leftleaner

      How on earth is an "ugly" woman's self esteem helped by becoming an adultress ... especially by stabbing her sister in the back by sleeping with her husband?

      This is the most cock-eyed excuse I've ever encountered by a pathetic male trying to justify inappropriate sex.  Gah.

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

      by Neuroptimalian on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 04:11:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ugly sister? (0+ / 0-)

      Really?  I somehow don't remember the adultery question in an ethics course.  Nor does the notion of committing adultery with one's brother-in-law and, thus, violating your sister's trust  seem likely to raise the woman's self esteem.  And for that matter, having sex with someone whose primary attribute seems to be that she doesn't meet your standards anything like a positive intervention. That example sounds more like a self-righteous jerk's justification for taking advantage of someone.  Next time you might try for a less offensive example of a conflict of ethical standards that doesn't offend the entire female populaiton.  There is no conflict there.  It is wrong on all counts.

      Not all those who wander are lost.

      by Leftleaner on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 05:01:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Actual cheating of course cannot be condoned (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, Food Gas Lodging

    but I cannot blame teachers who choose to "teach to the test" even at the exclusion of other valuable things they might prefer to be teaching.  

    I taught AP Physics, and I taught to the test.  The test was going to consist of a dozen or so really gnarly word-problems, and so every week I assigned ginormous homework sets with just those types of word problems.   I had the highest pass rate the school had ever seen for the class.

    Perhaps the students missed out on certain aspects of really understanding and loving physics, and sometimes I worried about that.  But they sure as heck got better at interpreting gnarly word problems, choosing applicable equations, and working them out carefully.  Those are good skills to have.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:58:15 PM PDT

  •  Cheating only masks the problem that is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gc10, lgmcp, OklaBrett

    No Child Left Behind.  NO SCHOOL will be able to meet the 100% on grade level by 2014. None.

    At my school teachers face pressure for our school to make AYP.  One year we had a principal come in with a golf shirt with No Excuses embroidered on it, lecturing us on our first day of in-service at the start of the year that the high poverty, transient students made no difference, that clearly we are responsible for making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress).

    This nonsense has to stop.  The Emperor has no clothes!

    •  That principal should have been fired (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OklaBrett

      for malpractice. if he truly believes that high poverty and transience make no difference. Of course they do! A study done here in Ohio showed a perfect stairstep correlation of median family incomes and the rating category school systems fell into, with incomes in the "excellent with distinction" category exceeding $80,000 and in the "academic emergency" category in the low $20,000s.

      Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

      by anastasia p on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 07:01:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The cheating in Atlanta (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Food Gas Lodging, lgmcp, OklaBrett

    was clearly expected and condoned by the administration, so the teachers were basically doing what they were told.  There were schools where 80% of tests were changed, that can't happen unless the administration is endorsing it.

    Not all those who wander are lost.

    by Leftleaner on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 05:08:13 PM PDT

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