Thursday, July 7, 2011

Teachers cheat in Atlanta; to keep their jobs and their funding...who is really responsible?

By Steve Osunsami and Ben Forer, ABC News, July 6, 2011
More than 150 teachers and administrators from 44 public schools across Atlanta were caught changing answers on standardized tests used to judge student performance and rank schools, according to a state report.

"Many of those cases could lead to criminal prosecutions," said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
Eighty-two of the teachers flat-out confessed. The 800-page report said the cheating has been going on for nearly a decade. It first came to light when the state noticed an alarming number of erasure marks on the answer sheets.
Teachers and principals were erasing the wrong answers and filling in the right ones, the report said. At one school, the faculty even held weekend pizza parties to correct answers before turning them in. Over the course of a single year, scores at the school jumped 45 percent.
"We were told to get these scores by any means necessary," said Sidnye Fells, a fourth grade teacher. "We were told our jobs were on the line."
Any educator, teacher, administrator or even parent who might have been asked, when "No Child Left Behind" was inaugurated, would have been able and willing to foretell this tragedy, if they had been asked. What is truly surprising is that is took this long to uncover.
If you tell a bunch of educators that you job is on the line, unless the results of these tests are high enough for this school to qualify for  further funding, you know that, come hell or high water, those scores are going to be high enough. And the price?....a 45% increase in test scores, did not come about because these teachers suddenly improved their teaching strategies, tactics or motivation by nearly 50%.
The scores came as a result of what is now being considered "criminal" behaviour or at least potentially criminal behaviour.
Whoa! Not so fast! Talk about a rush to judgement!
Let's look, finally but not for the last time, at the people who set the rules for the "game".
Let's hold people like President George W. Bush and his administration accountable, responsible and up to public ridicule and scorn, if nothing else.
This scheme, to puff up the ego's of politicians, to play to the base of voters, all of them parents across America,  was nothing more than an "instant-fix" for the "instant gratification" of the political masters who laid it on the system.
Schools are failing:....oh that means the shortest route to change is, like the bullets and bombs and missiles sent into Iraq by the same people, a template of tests imposed from on high, in the same belief and mindset that dictates, "democracy at the end of a bayonet, or a drone, or a cruise missile".....and such a mindset never works.
And then, tie the results of those tests to the funding of those same schools, and, "Damn it, we'll show those lazy bastards the teachers just who is boss....and we will drive the lot of them out of our schools. Their unions have protected them for far too long, and it is time we took our schools back! The kids are learning anyway, so let's get busy."
It is the criminal minds and the actors that possess them that sets out with such a purpose and such a plan that need to be held accountable.
And not the teachers.
But they have no, or at least very little public support, because they have enjoyed tenure, and pensions and a loose, at best, form of supervision and adminsitration, where few wanted to really rock the boat.
Now, the lid has come off the system. Now the kids are being short-changed, to put it mildly, and the teachers are going to pay, with the loss of their licenses, and perhaps even their careers.
Not only does such a scheme put the emphasis in the wrong place, on objective, multiple-choice tests, that can basically test "content" or facts, and not perceptions, observations, opinions, or nuanced reflections. These tests are, as demonstrated through numerous research projects, a form of reductionism on the complextity of the learning process. They also focus on the objectivization of the students, and the achieveable empirical performance of the teacher, when there are multiple variables at play, in every student, in each situation, including those required for homework, homestudy, classroom attention, test preparedness, test/achievment anxiety and these tests at best will prove only one thing: that success on them is a likely predictor of success in future similar testing in an academic setting.
The tests do not predict ethical behaviour, social attitudes, social integration, collaborative behaviour, domestic compatibility, spiritual growth, financial success, professional achievement or any of the other so-called important values that constitute the glue that gives culture is cohesiveness and its stability and its capacity to generate compassion.
Perhaps, rather then wringing their hands, and publicly screaming about how awful this behaviour is, educators and politicians and even law enforcement will step back, take a deep breath and ask some really hard and poignant questions about the underlying and implicit erosion of the educational opportunity that attends such a testing program, and begin to rethink the needs of the students as those that must always trump the needs of the political masters.

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