Cheating on tests has reached such epidemic proportions that even the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is taking notice of it.
Lawrence Hardy’s article “An Epidemic of Cheating,” which appeared in the NSBA’s magazine, takes a look at cheating by teachers and administrators on standardized tests as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act. Hardy writes, “Allegations of teachers or administrators manipulating standardized tests have surfaced in Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, East St. Louis, Ill., Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., among many other cities.” Given the purported prevalence of the problem, “they’ve given opponents of high-stakes tests a strong argument for limiting or abolishing them.”
Robert Schaeffer, the public education director for FairTest, which opposes standardized testing, blames the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. “After the introduction of No Child Left Behind, we saw an acceleration of cheating cases,” Schaeffer claims. “In recent years, as we’re getting to the 100 percent requirement [for student proficiency] in 2014, we’ve seen an explosion.”
Hardy gives a few specific examples of administrators involved in cheating scandals, including Beverly Hall in Atlanta, the former National Superintendent of the Year, whose performance bonuses totaled more than $580,000, and Lorenzo Garcia, the former superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District.
Hardy also points out that there is evidence that teachers are cheating on their own, citing a 2012 investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which found “196 districts across the country with questionable gains in test scores,” as well an investigation by USA Today a year earlier which found “more than 1,600 questionable test score increases in six states and the District of Columbia.”
In summarizing the opposing viewpoint, Hardy says that “proponents of using the standardized tests in accountability systems say it’s wrong to blame the tests on the actions of a few dishonest individuals who represent a small minority of teachers and administrators.”
Audrey Beardsley, now a professor at Arizona State, says this about her experience teaching math at a high-needs school: “The science teacher and I would team up, and we would drill and kill those items that we knew were coming up on the test for about a month straight. So not only are you narrowing the curriculum, but-they kind of go hand in hand-you’re teaching it to the test.”
Realistically, issues such as teachers changing answers do not seem difficult to fix. You merely need to put someone else in charge of testing and grading the students. After all, is cheating an issue on the SATs?
Hardy cites a resolution in Texas fighting against the overreliance on standardized testing, which “calls for the state legislature to devise a system that uses multiple measures.” In the same vein, David Stone, a board member for Baltimore City’s Public Schools, says that “it is incumbent upon local school boards to start being creative to figure out ways to measure what’s going on in their classrooms that goes way beyond those tests.”
Michael Schaerr is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run jointly by Accuracy in Academia and its sister organization— Accuracy in Media.
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