By Robert Green
The last week has seen some alarming developments with respect to the myopic focus on success rates and standardized test results that has been at the heart of US education reform since the introduction of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind law.
The first development is the indictment of 35 Atlanta educators for their participation in a massive fraud scandal involving teachers and administrators colluding to change answers on standardized tests. The district superintendant Beverly Hill has been charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. She could face up to 45 years in prison. The New York Times quoted teacher and whistle-blower Jackie Parks as stating that “the cheating had been going on so long, we considered it part of our jobs.”
The second development was the release of a survey by The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) indicating that the situation in Atlanta was far from unique. The survey found evidence of score manipulation in at least 37 states. “Across the U.S., strategies that boost scores without improving learning — including outright cheating, narrow teaching to the test and pushing out low-scoring students — are widespread,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “These corrupt practices are inevitable consequences of the politically mandated overuse and misuse of high-stakes exams.”
In its analysis FairTest identifies over 50 ways that schools ‘cheat’ in order to manipulate results on high stakes standardized tests. These include: