Physicians who murder. Policeman who steal. These are especially heinous crimes because we expect doctors to save lives and police to prevent crime.
So when educators cheat, there can be no excuse. Teachers must be models of honesty.
There are no excuses. Period.
But those who dismiss the cheating as just a problem with "bad teachers" ignore that this cheating has erupted on a massive scale only in this last decade of high stakes testing.
They want to ignore the problem of teacher de-professionalization.
Consider the profession of medicine and a hypothetical hospital.
Competent doctors and nurses have a normal range of unique patients with unique problems. They make their own decisions on treatment. One surgeon is particularly good and therefore gets the most severe cases—and has the lowest survival rates.
However, a governing body (whose only credentials are that they at one time were patients) decides to impose "accountability." They demand: all patients will survive. Their "outcome-based" criteria narrows to just a few tests: perhaps a normal temperature and "happiness" as the patients leave the hospital. Failure will result in firing the staff. Perhaps closing the hospital.
Staff try to preserve their fuller range of care, medication and surgery—but those services do not "count." To save the hospital, dosing patients with aspirin and Valium when they leave ...becomes Job One.
For many public schools, this is not hypothetical. The decision-makers often have no more expertise in education than having once been students. A superb teacher in a poverty district will have far lower student scores than a mediocre teacher in an affluent district. The best of doctors lose patients and the best of teachers lose students, and for much the same reasons: the patient doesn’t take his medicine and the student doesn’t do his homework.
Every mechanism is used to extort student cooperation to raise scores.
Students learn a bigger lesson: the end justifies any means.
High-stakes testing narrows the curriculum to just the tested subjects—art and music and science have nearly disappeared in many schools.
The legacy of No Child Left Behind is the dramatic change in many districts, from a school where administrators worked alongside professional teachers, to a test-prep factory where administrators are foremen and teachers are merely assembly-line workers.
So how is a teacher able to survive this test tyranny? A teacher who wants to preserve some small fragment of academic integrity. A teacher who wants to teach the whole student about more than test-taking. A teacher who wants to remain a professional?
The answer is not cheating. That maintains the legitimacy of external testing.
The answer is outright resistance.
That is difficult.
Insubordination puts your job on the line.
But we have such heroes in the Seattle teachers who would not give the MAP test. We need far more teachers and administrators who refuse to reduce their profession to raising test scores. We need universities that refuse to train teachers in test prep. We need legislators who understand that they cannot...and should not try to dictate professionalism.
We need..."academic freedom fighters."
If the teachers who changed their students’ test scores are the villains, then teachers and administrators who refuse to substitute examinations for an education...are the heroes.