In Atlanta, GA, a state investigation into 44 schools, involving at least 178 teachers and administrators, found rampant cheating on school test score results. Educators tampered with their students’ scores, “earning” praise for the improvements in difficult school districts.
Washington D.C. standardized tests have been found to have a suspicious number of erasures, with wrong answers changed to right ones. Principals and teachers received huge bonuses for their schools’ rising achievement on the tests.
And a Hartford principal resigned last week amid questions about scores from her school’s tests.
There’s something seriously wrong here.
Not all administrators and educators are engaging in unethical behavior around test scores, but it’s pretty disturbing to see this pattern developing. And perhaps the most disturbing part is that as test scores get doctored, kids are falling through the cracks and making the name “No Child Left Behind” sound (even more) like a sick joke.
The problem is a system that ties funding (and sometimes educator compensation) to standardized test score results. When there are penalties for low scores and rewards for high ones, educators and administrators are incentivized to do whatever it takes just to raise those numbers--not necessarily to improve teachers’ ability to serve their students’ needs, or students’ capacity for higher-order thinking and interaction with academic material.
Some standards are necessary of course, but the profound problems with our current standardized test system, and particularly its relationship to educational funding (and the lack thereof), are becoming more and more apparent. What works for one student won’t necessarily work for another in the same class, let alone for another student in a completely different context across the country, and we can’t keep asking schools to do more with less. How can we change things to shift the focus back to students and away from bubbles and multiple choice?
3 minutes ago