Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I Won't Support Teachers who Test-Cheat

 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.


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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