Cheating Teachers Reveals the Elephant in the Room about Standardized Testing

July 11, 2011  |  


By Charing Ball

Atlanta’s public school district finds itself under intense national scrutiny and possible criminal investigation after a state report revealed that the  district’s remarkable improvement over the years has been the result of systematic cheating on standardized tests.

According to the New York Times, more than 178 teachers and principals — including the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year — at 44 schools have been accused of cheating.  Almost half of teaching staff confess as much. The results of the investigation, which was conducted by a former state attorney general and a former county district attorney, show that cheating on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test began as early as 2001, and that “clear and significant” warning had been raised as early as December 2005.

The results of the investigation will now be turned over to the local district attorney, who is said to be considering charging teachers and principals for crimes ranging from racketeering, forgery, conspiracy to fraud.  And Atlanta mayor, Kasim Reed, said that the cheating “showed a complete failure of leadership that hurt thousands of children who might have been promoted to the next grade without meeting basic academic standards.

My thoughts are that if anyone should be charged criminally, it is the bureaucrats for making these unnecessary and counterproductive tests an integral part of public schooling in America.  And before anyone goes, “But what about the children” on me, let’s add a little perspective here.  First, let’s consider the sub-plotline of season three of The Wire, in which a rogue cop, who tired of the failed War on Drugs, secretly “legalized” the illegal drug trade, within the limited boundaries of a few uninhabited city blocks. The benefits of this de facto legalization, we saw, were a reduction in street crime, a more peaceful community and an increase in outreach of health and social services to at-risk populations.

What does The Wire have to do with cheating teachers?  Well just like the rogue cop, who sought a real solution outside of the habitual cycle of arrest and re-arrest, teachers today are trying to work around a system of standardize testing, which is prohibiting them from actually teaching the children.  Parents who are concerned about the quality of their child’s education should cringe at how the curricula at many schools are based around spoon-feeding test questions to students in hopes of enhancing a public school district’s chances of getting more federal aid.

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