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Testing Pressure Leads to Cheating…

July 6, 2011

Remember Michelle Rhee’s ErasureGate moment?  Washington D.C. schools that she had lauded as “turnaround” institutions turned out to be rife with cheating.  Is anyone surprised that when you put someone’s career under pressure to raise test scores this would happen?  Or, when you have an administrator (Rhee) hell-bent on proving to the world how wonderful she is that you would get people who are less than honest with the tests?  It is all very obvious, but somehow the man at the top, Arne Duncan and the President are failing to see this.

Now, according to this report in the Atlanta Journal widespread cheating has been found and it is charged that the Superintendent Beverly Hall either knew, or should have known about it.  From the article:

State investigators have uncovered a decade of systemic cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools and conclude that Superintendent Beverly Hall knew or should have known about it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

In a report that Gov. Nathan Deal planned to release today, the investigators name nearly 180 educators, including more than three dozen principals, as participants in cheating on state curriculum tests, officials said over the weekend. The investigators obtained scores of confessions.

 The findings suggest the national accolades that Hall and the school system have collected — and the much-vaunted academic progress for which she claimed credit — were based on falsehoods. Raising test scores apparently became a higher priority than conducting the district’s business in an ethical manner.

Of course raising test scores became a higher priority than conducting district business ethically.  There are HUGE stakes involved in creating the aura of increases in test scores.  People could lose their jobs, schools can lose funding and they can also be labeled as “failing.”  NCLB’s mandate of fully proficient by 2014 is no help.  Congress needs to change this law.

The report’s release culminates more than two years of inquiries into Atlanta’s huge gains on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in 2009. An AJC analysis first detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at two Atlanta schools in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 CRCT at a dozen Atlanta schools. The newspaper’s reporting ultimately led to the state investigation that is being released today.

 The investigators’ report, officials said, depicts a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. Strongly contradicting denials of cheating and other irregularities by Hall and other top district executives, the report describes organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children — many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school — of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

Rewarding cheaters and punishing whistle-blowers is a regular occurrence in our country today, it is sad.  As for the last highlighted part (robbed disadvantaged students of an honest appraisal of their abilities) – maybe that is what officials wanted because a true report would show that these kids need more help that decreased funding will not provide.  I encourage everyone to take the above link and view what high-stakes testing has brought to schools, my guess are that these practices are wide-spread.



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