The Crack Team will like to welcome a guest blogger who has decided to share their opinion on the subject of testing, and the requisite cheating, and the future cheating shit storm (we ain't seen nothing yet!), associated with testing.
I wish I could write as well and as lucid as today's guest blogger has. I agree with the points 100%. Keep on evaluating teachers on standardized tests, soon teachers will choose between not providing for their family or cheating. Cheating will win out every time. I am not condoning cheating, just stating a fact. But it will hurt the students in the long run. Yeah, more of that "student's first" crap.
Enjoy the read. I and the Crack Team did.
Last August an aide to Mayor Bloomberg called new efforts by New York State to improve security on standardized tests 'a knee-jerk reaction to cheating in other states'. I remember thinking that very strange. We are talking about something that appears to be a growing problem, especially as careers and bonus cash are on the line, and I still can't imagine why it would not deserve a strong effort. Are the schools in our city so different that it couldn't happen here?
As I read a little about cheating scandals of the last few years, I started to see something else in that official statement. I saw the kind of evidence gathered in other states in comprehensive investigations and I realize that we already had that kind of evidence of cheating in New York City. I started to think that the purpose of the statement might be to chill employees from reporting cheating. All employees, not just investigators, have an obligation to report cheating. I also considered that it might be an old Soviet style arrogant boast, our mayor is known for those, that there is no cheating in New York City schools.
Now I see more allegations of cheating, very much like those of prior years. As I look at all these allegations together, I see very low standards for investigation. When a teacher is accused of corporal punishment, even the verbal kind, the statements of just two or three students can result in disciplinary action or even dismissal. In the case of allegations of cheating, we can have statements from dozens of students that mean nothing. Apparently without physical evidence cheating educators get to walk. Cheat when your Principal tells you or implies that you should and you get a free pass. Tell a student that he was 'stupid' to throw a window pole out a fifth floor window and you will be disciplined or maybe fired.
When I read a story about this by Anna Phillips in the New York Times on May 23, I realized something that authorities should have realized years ago, or perhaps they did and buried the idea. You can't look at changes in scores from grade to grade within a school because that can be attributed to differential instruction. If any employees are cheating on their own, that data would be near impossible to detect without an extensive multi-year analysis. However, when you aggregate that data across schools if the cheating is an institutional practice encouraged by administrators that can be easily detected. All we need to do is look at how students fare the year after graduation. If there are dramatic drops that is a clear indication of cheating. This can be determined from data posted in ARIS. Given the Bloomberg administration decree on cheating, you know that it will never be done.
As I look at other states, I see that Georgia was very successful because the governor sent in a small army of investigators for months to get at the truth. That won't happen here. I believe that in Dallas it was the media and parents who forced the hand of government officials. Anna Phillips started this work with her article, but someone else needs to finish it. Any organization with the resources to get data through FOIL and analyze our student data could produce a 'cheating heat map', showing us almost every school in New York City where further examination of test scores and practices is merited.
I believe that cheating has become a poison in our schools. If teachers were encouraged to cheat in prior years, teachers today will have to cheat to keep their jobs as will teachers in the future. I think that exposing cheating in schools throughout the country will derail those who want to stake everything from tenure to salaries on standardized testing. We must do our part in New York City.
As we do consider this problem, we must be extremely sensitive to the plight of whistle blowers and those who have spoken honestly to investigators. Of course people who speak out first are threatened and scorned by those who defend the status quo, but even worse teachers who have been honest with investigators are now labeled as malcontents. I have a dream that one day those who tell the truth will be held in high esteem, but that will never happen in Mayor Bloomberg's Department of Education.
I have the impression that the only way that cheating will be outed in New York City is by the Texas model, where parents and the media took the lead. We can't count on The Daily News or The Post, and the person who had the story at The Times is gone, so I don't know how the job can be done.
I'm afraid that this hypocritical inequity, where testimony of dozens of students and teachers is discounted because the DOE is in denial on cheating, will continue plaguing our school communities and I don't know what to do about it.