"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cheaters Never Win -- Part 9

More cheating in Georgia.

Valerie Strauss reports...
New major test cheating scandal revealed in Georgia

A new investigative report details a second major standardized test cheating scandal in a Georgia school system, implicating 49 educators, including 11 principals. A key reason for the “disgraceful” cheating, investigators said, was pressure to meet No Child Left Behind requirements.

The report cites three key reasons for the cheating:
  • Pressure to meet the adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, a provision that requires school districts to annually increase the number of students who score at the proficient level on math and reading standardized tests.
  • A fear by teachers and principals of being perceived as failures.
  • The failure of principals, as well as the system’s administration, to lead.
Not all 11 principals had the same level of culpability; some actively participated in cheating, while others did not ensure the tests were properly administered. The distinction is important but hardly exculpatory. It is one thing to explain how high-stakes testing has led to more cheating, and even to understand how some people might feel pressured to cheat. There is, though, no good excuse for this kind of behavior, no matter how wrong it is to use these tests to assess students, teachers, principals, schools and districts.

A conclusion in the report was this: “Since the enactment of NCLB, standardized testing has become more about measuring the teachers, principals and schools than accurately assessing the children’s academic progress.”

There have been numerous cheating scandals reported in school system after school system around the country in recent years, according to FairTest, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce the misuse of tests. FairTest has documented confirmed cases of test cheating in 30 states and the District of Columbia over the past three academic years.
The report can be found here and here. You can also read a news article complete with a list of cheaters.

The fact that this was in Georgia, like the last cheating scandal (Atlanta) means nothing. It's going on all over the country. Administrators and teachers alike are trying desperately to keep their schools alive despite the insanity of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

The cheaters were wrong, but so are the state and federal legislators, governors, the president, and the state and federal departments of education. There is cheating because the tests are given too much importance. The tests are being used in ways which are inappropriate and therefore wrong. Children are being denied a complete education because so much of what needs to be learned in school, and in life, cannot be measured. It's a system in which everyone loses and it's been going on too long.

Let's go back to learning?

Mrs. Mimi told a story about administering a literacy assessment to second graders. In this little playlet there are two characters: Me, the teacher, in this case Mrs. Mimi and Friend, a second grader who struggles in reading. Get a tissue and then read it...
I Am Chilled To The Bone

Setting: My fabulous classroom. Although on this day, instead of sitting at desks arranged in collaborative groups, my friends sat in single rows. Rows I had to waste precious instructional time teaching them how to form because of an administrative demand that insisted on the Re-Creation Of The Testing Environment.

Scene: I have just passed out a literacy assessment, in which I have to ask my second grade friends (whose reading levels span mid-first grade all the way through mid-third grade) to read forty FORTY! paragraphs about the most boring and mundane un-relatable shit known to man and then answer a multiple choice question on that paragraph. They then have to successfully transfer their answer to a separate bubble sheet which, at the start of second grade, can feel like asking them to climb Mount Everest in flip flops. Yes, they are that prepared. Oh, the best part? EACH child has to finish. Which means that I have to make some of them sit there for OVER AN HOUR while those who are finished (and those who simply think they are finished) must sit in silence as their opportunity for real learning ticks away.

Sounds like a party, no?

Don't tell anyone, but I used to just call it quits after a while. I mean, enough is enough, right?

Me: (noticing that one friend, a friend who struggles in reading... I mean STRUGGLES) (kneeling down and whispering) Are you okay?
Friend: (tears streaming down face) (STREAMING!) I just can't do it anymore. (Is your heart breaking yet?)
Me: I know it's hard, sweetie, but you just have to do your best.
Friend: The words are just too hard. I'm not smart enough.
Me: (trying not to let tears stream down my face because I have to get this kid to try and finish) Just try a few more and then we'll stop.
Friend: And we'll go back to learning?
Me: (choking back sob) Yes, honey, we'll go back to learning.
It would be nice if we could all go back to learning.

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