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:
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.
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.