Testing, Testing … (Is This Thing On?)

You may have heard about the gigantic testing scandal in Atlanta public schools.  Beginning in 2008, old-fashioned investigative reporting by the Atlanta Journal Constitution uncovered widespread cheating by adults on standardized tests in Atlanta Pubic Schools. The tests, instituted by the No Child Left Behind law, were closely tied to school funding, performance bonuses, and continued employment for teachers. About 150 educators have resigned, retired, or lost their jobs.  This week, 35 educators including former superintendent Beverly Hall were indicted for racketeering, theft by taking, influencing witnesses and making false statements.  

What did we expect?  If we tie funding and compensation to test performance, and then ratchet up the economic and political pressure, this “outcome” is entirely predictable. The Constitution’s investigation indicates that “196 districts throughout the U.S. exhibit suspicious patterns of test scores that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating.”  A sampling of opinion from around the web:

Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket.

CheatingCulture.com editor David Callahan in the Huffington Post spells out the role of No Child Left Behind and ties the scandal to our larger cheating culture in this country.

And Erika Christakis at Time.com uncovers a hidden dimension to the scandal:

faked scores prevented some schools from accessing three quarters of a million dollars in federal money to support struggling learners because they no longer qualified for help. 

Christakis goes on to challenge the testing itself:

Even if we eliminate all the cheating, what remains is a broken system built on the dangerous misconception that testing is a proxy for actual teaching and learning.

Definitely worth a read.  In fact, from looking at her blog, this sounds like someone who might be interested in learning a little about Montessori.  I think I’ll send her a link.

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One response to “Testing, Testing … (Is This Thing On?)

  1. Why did only these 150 educators lose their jobs? What about the hundreds of thousands of other teachers who also cheated by telling their students to “eat a healthy breakfast” and “get a good night’s sleep” and who taught test-taking strategies and who taught their students exactly which topics and techniques would be on the test? These teachers cheated, too, right? Aren’t these all examples of trying to gain an unfair advantage over one’s peers? When it comes down to it, TESTING=CHEATING. If you want to stop the cheating, stop testing. If you need information on student learning, conduct scientific studies. Scientists doing research on lab mice (for example) don’t give the ones in the study extra rations of food and sleep and training just prior to the experiment!

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