You Cheated Me? I Believe It…

Cheating is back in the news in a big way this week because of the allegations in D.C.  But it’s a broader issue and that’s the focus of this week’s School of Thought column at TIME. These cheating episodes tell us something important if we move past the back and forth and take time to listen:

Cheating in school became education topic number one this week, except this time it wasn’t students cheating on tests — it was adults cheating for them. As part of a series, USA Today published an article strongly suggesting that teachers or administrators goosed student test score gains at an elementary and middle school in Washington, D.C. Since it was a school former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee had singled out for praise, the news created yet another battleground for Rhee combatants. The distraction is too bad because the focus on cheating offers — pardon the cliché — a teachable moment for parents and policymakers.

Even assuming that teachers and administrators at the school at the center of this week’s controversy didn’t do anything improper, too much cheating by adults does go on in too many schools around the country…

Read the entire thing here.

19 Replies to “You Cheated Me? I Believe It…”

  1. What baffles me is that the Diane Ravitch crowd always brags about cheating scandals, as if this proves that testing is bad. But cheating scandals really prove that the teaching “profession” is filled with dishonest liars.

    Are Ravitch and her ilk really so stupid as think that after a cheating scandal, the public will buy their line that we should just stop testing and then pay higher salaries to teachers (who have now been shown to be lying cheats)?

  2. Alex use your brain and stop being a polemic. The reason why people cheated was because they were incentivized to do so, not because the teaching profession is full of dishonest liars. Particularly in the DC case, the people who had the access and the ability to change were a principal and testing coordinator. If there are things like financial bonuses on the line (which there were), people will be tempted to cheat. Rhee promoted the individual who was the principal at one the main culprit schools to be an instructional superintendent. Now he is making a ridiculous salary off of what was a lie.

    No one is saying testing and assessment is not a critical part of education. It is just not the end all be all and it is highly manipulable.

  3. Now he is making a ridiculous salary off of what was a lie.

    Why not?
    That worked for his boss.

    As for “ilk” “bragging”, care to supply names and addresses?

  4. Aurora: Well said. I particularly liked how you pointed out that in the DC (Noyes School) case, the most likely culprits for cheating were not the teachers (“Particularly in the DC case, the people who had the access and the ability to change were a principal and testing coordinator.”)

    Reading about the DC cheating/erasure scandal, if I see a school where MOST of the classrooms had this problem, my suspicions would fall on the principal… It’s unlikely that dozens of teachers all just ‘happened’ to decide to erase answers at the same time.

  5. When the scores for one classroom are impossibly high (say from the thirteenth percentile to the ninetieth), the teacher might have cheated; when the scores for a school are impossibly high, it might have been the principal who changed answers; when the scores for several schools are “unusual” and an investigation is thwarted by district leadership, it’s often the leadership that cheated.

    I knew this day would come.

  6. Aurora — You said, “The reason why people cheated was because they were incentivized to do so, not because the teaching profession is full of dishonest liars…” Funny! I assume you are being sarcastic. Right? …because there is no walk of life, occupation, or function at all that doesn’t include an incentive for cheating. I mean, that’s obviously true. Can you think of one? I cannot, particularly since Chris Hitchens did such a good job pointing out that even Sister Theresa’s saintly behavior could be viewed as avarice for Heaven. Do you agree, or is using your brain (and civility) not an acceptable use of time here?
    Best, –F.

  7. My apologies… that was much too wordy and i hit enter by accident. What I meant to say, Aurora and company, was:

    You must be joking.

  8. “With good teaching, the tests take care of themselves. When teachers or schools obsess over tests, parents should be concerned — not about the test, but about the school.”

    I usually like what you write even though I don’t always agree with you. But this just doesn’t make sense.

    Parents should be concerned that their children have been dealt a bad hand and years of little support from the community. Parents should be concerned that policymakers and politicians–a group by and large that has never taught in a classroom or a school–write laws that have made our education system high stakes testing.

    As it stands now, the only technical way to know if there is “good teaching” is to test the students. I get what you’re trying to say–great teaching will prepare students on a base level to then test well.

    Maybe we should follow President Obama’s recent remarks about Sidwell Friends where he hopes they don’t teach to the test. But then again America is not willing to pay for quality education. That is reserved for the elite and the wealthy.

    The least among us in public education are never taught how to read, write, add/subtract. But they do know after years of testing how to fill out a bubble sheet.

    Let’s turn our “concern” not to individual schools–although they do need accountability–but to policymakers and politicians.

  9. If teachers and principals are so easily swayed by “incentives” to cheat, then yes they are dishonest liars, and that remains true even if you take away testing.

    Businessmen have a much greater incentive to cheat all the time — to do insider stock trading, to falsify expense accounts, to submit inflated bills to Medicare, or whatever. But when businessmen cheat and steal, we don’t excuse them by saying, “Well, poor things, they had an incentive to do so.”

    If teachers and principals so infantile that they aren’t responsible for their own actions, I guess that gets them off the hook for cheating, but it doesn’t make me any more eager to trust them with educating children.

  10. One thing I learned while I was a teacher is the fact that the public views teachers as very honest and trustworthy. Each year I would attend conferences sponsored by the International Reading Association and purchase books and materials. When I tried to offer proof of identification, the vendors would usually say “I don’t need it” or “Teachers don’t write bad checks.” Also, when a poll was taken in my state about five years ago, teachers came out second (behind the clergy and ahead of physicians) when citizens were asked, “Which group of professionals do you find most trustworthy?”

    In my experience when answers were changed on tests, it was often done after they were collected and sent “to the office.”

    On the whole, teachers are a very honest group of people.

  11. Over the past 5 years of teaching I’ve administered dozens of state standardized tests here in Texas. The famous TAKS test for those who know Texas.

    Frankly the way that the TAKS tests are administered here in Texas it would be virtually impossible for individual teachers to goose test scores. The entire student body is assigned to testing rooms based on alphabetical order and teachers are generally assigned to proctor tests to a group of students they have never seen in a different grade level than they normally teach. Then, you are never alone with the tests and answer sheets. You collect them from the students, bundle them in order, and they are collected and brought to the school testing headquarters (it is the library in my school which is shut down for testing). The only way for an individual teacher to actually cheat would be to do so in front of the students (with their help or complicity) and what teacher is going to do that (and risk their job) for a group of students who are not their students. The first thing any teacher learns is to not give students anything to hold over them. Don’t EVER do anything in front of students that you do not want made public.

    I don’t know how it is done in other states, but here in Texas teachers do not administer standardized tests to their own students, they do it to a group of students whom they don’t teach and probably don’t even know. To the extent that any cheating occurs (which I suspect is exceedingly rare) it is most likely happening at the administrative level and teachers are not involved.

    What happened in DC doesn’t sound like individual teachers cheating. It sounds like school administrators cheating if scores are going up on a school-wide basis. In any event, it would be relatively easy to track whether the inconsistencies are school-wide or isolated to specific teachers.

  12. it is not civil to call people dishonest liars with no proof–particularly in this case when it’s fairly clear that it was not teachers systematically doing *anything*. I wasn’t excusing cheating, just pointing out that making hiring decisions rest almost solely on test scores will cause people to cheat, so it is a failed policy unless someone is going to appropriately police the tests, and not turn a blind eye to obvious impropriety. Th

  13. Did I mention Diane Ravitch? I could have sworn I did. Valerie Strauss. Etc. They all act as happy as a pig in a poke when teachers are caught cheating, because in their dimwitted minds this proves that teachers shouldn’t have to face the stress of having their students tested.

  14. Thank you for the non answer.
    Since tomorrow is Sunday, I’d advise you go to a church.
    At the Catholic churches, you will hear the story of the Man Born Blind.
    This from the reading is for you:

    Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
    and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
    Jesus said to them,
    “If you were blind, you would have no sin;
    but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

    lying cheats

  15. What’s worse: to call someone stupid who is, indeed, stupid, or to feign concern for someone’s soul?

  16. Did you hear about the administrator in New Braunfels, TX who plead guilty of transcript tampering? Yes, the Director of Special Programs change some students transcripts to increase the GPA so they could go to a certain college in Texas. What is this world coming to????

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