Friday, February 12, 2010

Cheating on tests...

The New York Times reports today that there is the suspicion of widespread cheating on student testing in Georgia. Looks like somebody--kids? teachers? administrators?--erased a large number of incorrect answers and replaced them with the correct answers.
Further on the article it states:

Principals and teachers are under intense pressure to improve scores. If schools fail under No Child Left Behind, they are placed in a “needs improvement” category and must offer extra tutoring and allow parents to transfer their children to higher performing schools.

And further on the article comments:

In October, The Journal-Constitution identified 10 Atlanta schools that had an extraordinary gain in scores, including two that went from among the worst to among the best in a year. Officials at the district, which gives $2,000 cash bonuses to educators at schools that meet improvement goals, said they did not believe there had been cheating. All of those schools are now on the “severe concern” list.

Maybe we thought Educators were some kind of sainted human beings who would not fall prey to the external pressures of greed and an avoidance of shame?

So how are we thinking about that "pay for performance" option for teachers? Any chance that some teachers might fudge things with the kids a little bit if earning power is on the line?
Naw....that would never happen.


  1. It is unclear who is responsible for the erasures. An expert is saying he believes the cheating was "orchestrated from above" rather than being the result of individual teachers. But the outcome is that all of us get a black eye.

    Those of us who work in low performing schools have three options. One is to accept that the mandates are impossible to meet, and hold our heads high while shame and castigation in heaped on us -- and our funding is cut, or our schools dismantled, replaced by charters or whatever the local fix is.

    Or we can cheat and hope we don't get caught.

    Some would have you believe it is possible for all our schools to get 100% of our students proficient, including all our subgroups, English Language Learners and Special Ed. But the funny thing is few of these people choose to actually work in the schools they are trying to improve.

  2. Great post, Mary (and the HS head shot...priceless). In "Freakonomics" the authors included a chapter on a similar cheating outbreak in Chicago P.S.--and calculated the likelihood of cheating as stakes were raised. Guess what? The more public pressure you put on people, the greater the chance that they will cheat, in some way.

    Anthony has a great point--it's perhaps more likely that erasures would happen in the office, rather than the classroom. If a teacher erased several wrong answers, it's possible that such cheating would be discovered by administrators. Cheating is most often done by the last person to handle the tests...

    And--could you do me a favor? I'm honored to be on your blog list. Could you change the URL to