Investigators are attempting to determine the full extent of teacher and administrator cheating in Atlanta’s schools. Extensive cheating has been previously uncovered in California, Texas, New York and Washington DC schools.
There is no excuse for the "hard core" cheating that has been discovered in the last decade.
The evidence? Huge numbers of erasures with changes always to correct answers. Absence of a few unmarked questions that would normally occur. Dramatic increases in scores (the Atlanta math test passing rate increased from 24 to 81 percent between 2005 and 2006). This circumstantial evidence for organized test correction was confirmed by investigators who learned some administrators and teachers gathered in after-school "parties" to make changes to raise school scores.
The California Achievement Test undergoes security scanning. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: "Between 2004 and 2006, the scans found suspicious erasures in 459 classrooms at 162 schools."
But erasures are but one way to raise scores. In some classrooms, a teacher walks the aisles between desks and frowns if a student marks the wrong answer, rapidly teaching students to watch for teacher cues. Or a teacher hands back a test sheet suggesting the student "try again." In some cases a teacher gained a sneak peek at the tests the day before and taught students the exact questions and answers to remember for the next day. All of these actions constitute blatant and undefendable cheating. A teacher’s duty includes both requiring honesty in students’ day-to-day class work and that the teacher be a model of honesty
This summer, many teachers across Kansas are attending Common Core meetings to help them "align their curriculum" with the new national standards. When the national assessments are completed, those test questions will become the new curriculum for 41 states including Kansas. Just as prior administrators have done with our state standards, only those elements on the Common Core that are assessed will be drilled, reviewed ad nauseam, and drilled again. It is called "teaching-to-the-test."
When a teacher peeks at an exam and teaches students the answers the day before, we call it cheating. But add a few days and this same action is merely "test prep." So how many days ahead of time does feeding-students-the-answers convert into "test prep" and mere "curriculum alignment" currently considered a legitimate part of our universities’ teacher-training as well as KSDE in-service training?
Before the last two decades of state assessments and NCLB, widespread hard-core cheating by teachers was essentially unheard of. Today it is too common. High-stakes testing is the driving cause.
According to Brian Jacobs, co-author of a Harvard study published in 2009 called "Rotten Apples": "We found cheating increased by 30 to 50 percent because of high-stakes testing." And that was before the NCLB requirement of "100%-proficient-by-2014" had ratcheted up to current impossible levels.
A dozen states are moving to pay-for-scores salary scales. There are heavy penalties on teachers and administrators if student scores do not rise. Can a teacher refuse to do everything they are ordered to do to raise scores?
In the current Atlanta case, one of the administrators being investigated is suspected of removing staff who would not go along with the cheating. He is quoted as saying: "If you have folks on the team who don’t think you can win, you are in trouble. So we had to get some people off the bus first. Then, we had to get the right people on the bus." It appears whistleblowers were fired, cheaters were hired.
Our Congressmen and Senators in Washington DC have blood-on-their-hands in this teacher cheating scandal. Through partisan bickering, and deafness to the damage that NCLB is doing to American education, they refuse to pull the 100%-by-2014 NCLB requirement. What further wake-up-call is needed to convince politicians that NCLB is a corrupt and corrupting educational mandate?