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Monday, March 26, 2012

AJC Cheating Story

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted an analysis of student test scores across the nation and found a good many irregularities in various school systems. They launched a new series on high stakes test score cheating yesterday, Cheating our children (index page). Amongst all the links provided, I found their The story behind the story to be a good starting point for exploring their analysis and allegations. Interestingly, the AJC reports that District of Columbia Schools were not included in the analysis "because of methodology issues," after three months of requesting information and then receiving "incomplete data!"

With the current pressure of evaluating schools and teachers based on high stakes testing, this is a story that is just not going to go away. Jay Mathews had an excellent posting on Friday, D.C. test tampering hurting teachers, poisoning schools, that gives just one of the many wrinkles of what happens when folks cheat or don't cheat on test scores. Walt Gardner has written frequently and quite well on Campbell's Law as it pertains to high stakes testing.

I've written about school test cheating scandals several times, although far less eloquently than Jay, Walt, and many others. During the height of the Atlanta cheating scandal last summer, I posted the somewhat cynical What Would Harry Rex Do? Possibly a better take on this situation was the whimsically titled I'm shocked, shocked to find that cheating has been going on there!

I'd guess that the AJC series will stir up some more investigations of test score irregularities from data collected over the past few years. I'd also guess that by this point, the real, hard core test score cheaters have probably gotten pretty good at hiding their misdeeds.

I'd like to think I'm not an apologist for the cheaters. Cheating in any form by teachers and administrators gives our profession an unneeded black eye. We've already been vilified as not having our students' best interests at heart, being incompetent, lazy, and not the sharpest crayons in the box. But I know an awful lot of educators are finding themselves up against a wall in the test score department these days. As NCLB's unmeetable standards for 100% proficiency draw nearer for states without waivers, and job retention and salary increases based on student test scores become more prevalent, many more teachers and administrators are going to be subjected to incredible pressure to produce steadily increasing test scores, possibly at any cost.

Looking Ahead

Thankfully, April Fool's Day falls on a Sunday this year, possibly saving a good bit of wear and tear on educators. Other events and holidays include Good Friday (6), Passover (begins at sundown - 6), Easter (8), Income Tax Day (15 - Sunday, push to 16), Earth Day (22), and Arbor Day (27). Our list of good planning calendars, often with teaching links to events and holidays, has grown just a bit:

Odds 'n' Ends

Publication Note

I'll be taking some time off from publishing Educators' News and Senior Gardening due to a death in the family.

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