Teacher cheating scandal

Discussion in 'West Mall' started by Uninformed, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    Public-School Children Cheated by Perverse Performance Pay Incentives

    Apr 1, 2013 4:45 AM EDT
    Today’s cheating scandals aren’t about students, but the school administrators and politicians who stand to profit from rising test scores, writes Sol Stern.

    In December 2008 two reporters for The Atlanta Journal Constitution published a story raising questions about “statistically improbable” increases in student test scores at one of the city’s elementary schools. The reporters cited a testing expert who said the purported rise in student achievement at Atherton Elementary was “as extraordinary as a snowstorm in July. In Atlanta.” Over the following several weeks the Journal Constitution continued reporting on similarly suspicious test-score improvements at 10 other Atlanta public schools.

    The newspaper reports set off one of the longest and most intensive cheating investigations in the history of American education. The probe concluded last Friday with the announcement by Fulton County prosecutor Paul Howard that 35 Atlanta public-school teachers and administrators—among them former superintendent Beverly Hall—had been indicted by a grand jury for tampering with student test papers, along with other charges such as “racketeering, theft, making false statements and false swearing.” The indictment graphically describes how Hall put unrelenting pressure on school principals, who in turn pressured teachers, to produce higher student test scores, which “created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education.” In announcing the unprecedented indictments, District Attorney Howard said these were “crimes that have been committed against the children of the city of Atlanta.”

    Because of the rise in test scores Hall collected a total of $580,000 in performance bonuses, and was named Superintendent of the Year by the Council of the Great City Schools.

    Since men are not angels, it was inevitable that administrators and teachers would feel pressured to game the tests by less-than-ethical means, including outright cheating. Since politicians are far from angels, they were happy to look the other way while claiming credit for the phony gains. And since many reporters are happy to have news brought to them, they have mostly trumpeted those claims rather than look for themselves into the too-good-to-be-true numbers.

    John Perry and Heather Vogell, the Journal Constitution reporters who did not accept the releases but doggedly pursued the cheating scandal, deserve the plaudits of their profession. But the real hero of this story is former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. He went where few other elected official have dared to go in this era of test-based accountability and pervasive grade inflation. Perdue could have joined Atlanta’s political establishment in basking in the glow of the city’s claims of spectacular improvement by its largely poor and minority students. Instead he took the reports in the Journal Constitution seriously and put tremendous state resources behind an investigation of the cheating allegations. The Governor assigned two former prosecutors and dozens of experienced criminal investigators to a state commission and directed them to pursue the truth about Atlanta’s school performance no matter where it led and who it hurt.
    Atlanta Schools Cheating

    The test-score scandals that have broken out in Atlanta and New York and many other big-city school districts are not random occurrences. Nor can they be blamed on just a few bad apples among our nation’s otherwise honest corps of teachers and administrators.

    As I read about the indictments, I could not help but compare what Governor Perdue did in Atlanta with the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg handled allegations of test fraud during his 12 years at the helm of New York City’s schools. Like Beverly Hall and other Atlanta officials, Bloomberg proclaimed miraculous gains in student achievement as a result of the reforms he instituted after the state legislature gave him control of the city’s school system in 2002. In the midst of his 2005 reelection campaign Bloomberg invited the city press corps to P.S. 33, an elementary school in one of the Bronx’s poorest neighborhoods to hear about one of those academic miracles. The school and its principal, Elba Lopez, had just hit the jackpot on the state’s fourth-grade reading test. Over 83 percent of the 140 fourth graders scored at or above proficiency (or grade level), Mayor Bloomberg announced, compared with only 35.8 percent proficiency in 2004. Like Atherton Elementary in Atlanta, this was a “statistically improbable” one-year gain of close to 50 percentage points. The scores for these predominantly minority and poor students were just four percentage points below the average for the richest suburban districts in the state. According to the mayor, the test results proved that his education reforms “really are paying off for those who were previously left behind.” Not a single reporter at the press conference questioned the mayor’s claim of historic, unprecedented educational gains.

    Shortly after the test scores were announced, Lopez retired, collecting a $15,000 bonus for her school’s spectacular performance, thus boosting her pension by as much as $10,000 per year. In 2006 the same cohort of students, now fifth graders, fell back to a pass rate of only 47 percent, and the pass rate for the new crop of fourth graders was just 41 percent. After I reported this startling turnabout in City Journal and reporter Andrew Wolf did the same in the New York Sun, it became fairly obvious that someone had tampered with the students’ 2005 exams. With Mayor Bloomberg successfully reelected, even his own Department of Education (DOE) felt some pressure and said it would take a second look. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein asked his counsel, Michael Best, to refer the matter to the city’s Department of Investigations (DOI). But Best left the referral on his desk for six months. (“I goofed,” he said, when I asked why he delayed the referral.) But the DOI, whose head Richard Condon is appointed by the mayor, declined to take the case. It was then left to the DOE’s small and understaffed investigative unit to follow up. The department had waited almost two years to start an investigation, and by this time the suspicious test papers had been destroyed.

    In a report issued almost four years after the tests were administered the department’s lone investigator found no wrongdoing, yet neglected to interview PS 33’s principal Elba Lopez. As the New York Post explained in its singularly pithy way, City clears self. When I asked DOE counsel Best how the most likely suspect could be cleared without even an interview, he responded that the department’s investigator “couldn’t find her.” A few months later, New York Post reporter Yoav Gonen located Lopez at her apartment in the Bronx, exactly where she had always lived. Lopez assured the Post that there was no cheating; the reason that the students didn’t maintain their spectacularly high scores for more than one test cycle, she explained, was that the school had a new, inexperienced principal.

    The test-score scandals that have broken out in Atlanta and New York and many other big-city school districts are not random occurrences. Nor can they be blamed on just a few bad apples among our nation’s otherwise honest corps of teachers and administrators. This is a systemic problem caused by flawed education policies and by ambitious politicians trying to drive up test scores by any means necessary in order to establish their reputations as “education mayors” or “education presidents.” Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama set unreasonable targets for higher test scores as the primary standard for evaluating education progress. When Bush’s No Child Left Behind became law, it left the door wide open to massive test inflation by stipulating that all American students “will be proficient” by the year 2014—and imposing a series of increasingly onerous sanctions on districts and schools not moving toward that goal—yet allowing each state to develop its own tests and set its own standard for “proficiency.” The Obama administration doubled down on test-based accountability with its Race to the Top initiative. Like NCLB, it judges teachers and schools by improvements in students’ scores on very flawed standardized tests.

    You might think of the politicians who set the test-based accountability policies of the past decade as unindicted co-conspirators in the plot to keep parents in places like Atlanta and New York from learning the truth about how much their children are learning in the public schools. And you’d be right to expect more such scandals, and arrests, to emerge in the years ahead.

    The Link

    I see lots of excuses, but if a university student is caught cheating he is kicked out of school. On the news today, teachers were claiming to be victims. I believe the students are the victims.
  2. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  3. Roger

    Roger 1,000+ Posts

    Larry as a teacher I'd love to hear what you think about this quote

  4. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

    I think the testing system is messed up but not because the test is too hard. The test is easy for most kids raised in an environment conducive to learning. The test is "too hard" for kids without that background. Although the tests have gotten harder, the main problem is the number of kids that come from a poor educational background. As far as what we can control, I have two main problems.

    1. Testing, along with everything in schooling, has become completely political. Want to make schools look better; make the test easier. Want to make schools look worse; make the test harder. We went from roughly 22% of districts with a failing rating to almost 50% in one year when we changed the test. You could pick a % and I could write a test that could acheive that number. So the next question is: why would they want to make a test knowing that half the districts would be unacceptable?

    2. The other main problem with testing is the emphasis placed on the scores. A child failing a state test is a much bigger deal to the teacher, school, and district than it is to the kid or family. In the Atlanta story, 90% of principals in that district had been fired primarily due to test scores. I can only assume that teachers were being let go for the same reason. That creates a system where we teach to the test. That is why the content is less than in years past. When we were in school, teachers had a lot more freedom to teach at the level the kids were on. If you had a high group, the sky was the limit. Now, the state standards for that grade level are the limit.
  5. NEWDOC2002

    NEWDOC2002 1,000+ Posts

    I just told a patient this morning that trying to educate some of these kids without any parental support is like me trying to treat a diabetic who does nothing at home to take care of themselves. Almost impossible. I feel for you guys.

    The scandal is outright greed. There needs to be harsh and severe penalties and then a hard look at how we place incentives for teachers.
  6. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez Beer Prophet

    Obviously, the teachers and administrators involved in this should go to prison. However, every politician and edu-crat who rigs the system to make it look better than it is (like George Bush) is basically doing the same thing. They just have the power to change the laws and regulations to make their scam legal.
  7. majorwhiteapples

    majorwhiteapples 5,000+ Posts

    Without even trying we have found two of the biggest school districts in the country cheating. I wonder how many would find if we actually did some investigating, if these two just got caught by some reporters imagine how many more are out there cheating. Makes you wonder about elections and everything else, it is odd that these are all coming from the poor neighborhoods so the so called educators can make their bonuses.....screw my kids just let me get my bonus!!!!
  8. CanaTigers

    CanaTigers 2,500+ Posts

  9. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  10. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  11. Coelacanth

    Coelacanth Guest

    I see it this way: The range of human potential is too wide to make standardized testing meaningful. In order to give it any teeth, you've got to attach sanctions to it, and once you do that, it won't be long until people are gaming out the test, and in some cases, cheating outright. The best you can hope for is a teacher who is wise enough to ignore the damned test and just teach. But that's not too likely these days.

    Fraud is rampant in education, and it's not primarily among the teachers. As soon as we admitted ideas like multiple intelligences and Dale's Cone into the mainstream of the research establishment, and thence to the in-service circuit, we lost touch with any fidelity to the truth about how teaching and learning actually works. In a larger sense, it's a by-product of too much enthusiasm for science, or, more particularly, the belief that fundamentally irrational pursuits such as teaching and learning can become predictive sciences. We've invested in that idea for the last fifty years or so, and what we're seeing now is the consequence of that intellectual bubble bursting.

    The truth is that teaching and learning is complex, and is dependent always on the context of the relationship between the teacher and the students and the truth that binds them and the world together.
  12. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez Beer Prophet

  13. Crockett

    Crockett 5,000+ Posts

    If the teachers and administrators didn't feel they were getting screwed by an unfair system, it would have been impossible to keep such cheating on the downlow. I've been in a lot of organizations and inevitably stupid bosses get left out of the loop because they would screw up any realistic chance of reaching objectives. As long as politicians uninterested in the nuts and bolts of education try to fix a process without understanding it, dysfunction within the sytem will abound.

    Speaking of smart solutions, I'd like for our leaders to look to Israel, where leadership is unwilling to write off potentially contributing members of society just because they don't do well at college prep curriculum. Instead, poor academic performers go to schools run by the military. They are not taught by R.Lee Ermy wannabe's though. Most of the instruction of the mostly male underperformers is done by 20-22 year old female soldiers. It works. In a country where you need every citizen to contribute, they do what works. The underperformers are given extensive aptitude testing and put on a path where they are likely to be successful, and almost everybody is.
  14. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez Beer Prophet

  15. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    So you are saying we need sluttier teachers? [​IMG] Sorry spider [​IMG]
  16. Roger

    Roger 1,000+ Posts

  17. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  18. Crockett

    Crockett 5,000+ Posts

    Deez described a situation that would stir hormones and imagination, not spread VD.
  19. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

  20. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez Beer Prophet

  21. pasotex

    pasotex 2,500+ Posts

    this thread took a fun turn ...

  22. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez Beer Prophet

  23. Crockett

    Crockett 5,000+ Posts

    Whoa! I just had a daydream involving schools as a TV miniseries -- kind of a combo of Room 222, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cheaters and the Jerry Springer show. Man I feel dirty. I better read a few days ahead in the Upper Room.
  24. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez Beer Prophet

  25. BrntOrngStmpeDe

    BrntOrngStmpeDe 1,000+ Posts

    1. I would say we made the test harder to raise the bar because it was too low to begin with. Come on, you said it above. They aren't failing because they are dumb in the raw sense, but rather because they have a poor academic environment (neighborhood, home, family, etc).

    2. For the type of student that has this poor environment, I agree, it probably doesn't matter enough to the kid or family. but that only illustrates the true problem.

    There is nothing wrong with standardized testing. My kids are not geniuses (trust me), but they ace school. They haven't had a 'B' in more than three years. They do great on all standardized test. It is because my family cares and makes it a priority, and we live in a community that cares about education (as long as it comes w/ football).

    Texas(and Georgia) is mid-tier in a country that is mid-tier in academic performance and standards. It ain't the test that are the problem.

    What is wrong with education is that we have let the true culprits get away blameless. Parents are supposed to nurture their children and set standards for them. Mom and Dad together work to make sure their children are ready for the world. Single parent households and "I want to be my child's buddy" are a big part of the problem but the biggest contributor is that we have let the narrative become "it's the institutions(school, gov't, etc) job to raise my kids".

    I think we should start making parents do weekend school when their children get a failing grade on their report card...missing their shows...that will get them motivated.
  26. BrntOrngStmpeDe

    BrntOrngStmpeDe 1,000+ Posts

    For other anecdotal confirmation, look at the performance of minorities in the DoD school system. There are still gaps in acheivement but they are substantially smaller gaps than exists in the public school system. Again, it is all about the community culture surrounding the student. It is about their academic environment. And this is with the vast majority of DoD being enlisted and parents typically only having high school diplomas (about 85% of them).

    Did their parents read to them when they were 3-9 years old? Did their parents help them learn their abc's early? Did their parents help them learn to count?

    The kids academic career is largely dictated by what happens through 4th grade. By then, they've self-identified with a 'type' and it is hard to get them off of their self perception. Nothing that happens before 4th grade is rocket science. If you aren't helping your kids with their homework in PreK through 4th grade, you've got no one to blame but yourself for how they perform in 5th through 12th.
  27. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  28. EPThorn

    EPThorn 500+ Posts

    Its very sad to see so many administrators and politicians game the system in the name of educating our youth.
    The largest district here in El Paso, the EPISD, is mired in a huge scandal across a number of schools and have already claimed numerous jobs, and still isnt over. This scandal has even prompted some bills to the Texas senate.

    EPISD scandal
  29. Coelacanth

    Coelacanth Guest


  30. AustinBat

    AustinBat 2,500+ Posts

    BrntOrg, there are some kids who are mentally challenged - I hate saying dumb. I had a kid in 8th grade history that I really liked. Poor Robert Torres was not at all smart, but I wanted him to feel some success, so the afternoon before a test he would come to my room and we would go over the test, answers and all. He really wanted to pass, and some times he did, but barely. I would be surprised if he didn't drop out in high school. He needed to know how to add, subtract, read and write enough to hold a job more than he needed to know history, algebra or creative writing. Kids need to be taught things they will need, whether because that will help them hold a minimum wage job or will help them get into college and med school. The cookie cutter approach screws everyone but the kids in the middle.

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