A couple of examples of coverage and commentary:
Cheating Report Confirms Teacher's SuspicionsAs I wrote in response to Cynic's recent post, there's a part of me that wouldn't mind if my students faced a high-stakes assessment conducted by someone other than me, since that would allow us to work toward a common goal rather than get into wrangles over grades. And I might well be better off being assessed on the basis of students' actual progress rather than on how they feel about the class. But the stakes really would have to be at least as high or higher for them as for me (which I don't think is the case for most of the NCLB testing, at least not in the short term), or I wouldn't want to be held responsible for their results. And while I believe it is possible to identify and share best practices, Wiener's vision sounds a bit too reductionist and formula-driven for me. I'm not sure good teaching, any more than the sort of complex learning described by Brady in the first article, can be so easily measured.
Paul Frysh, CNN, Aug 8, 2011
"I started believing that I wasn't a good teacher," Rogers-Martin says. "Other teachers were coming in with these perfect scores and mine are not so perfect. I mean they weren't bad, they were just normal." . . . .Some children with the highest rating on the previous year's test -- "exceeding expectations" -- arrived in her class completely unprepared for the coursework. . . .
Teachers, some faced with unreasonable targets, were cajoled and scared into cheating and were threatened with being placed on a Professional Development Program or PDP, she says. Though it sounds innocuous enough, teachers understood that a PDP could be the first step in losing their jobs, she and other Atlanta teachers said. "I have a husband who has a good job, so I could quit. I could say: 'There's no way! I'm not going to do this,'" says Rogers-Martin. "If I were a single mother and I had two kids' mouths to feed and this was my only job, I would hate to think what I would do -- I don't know." . . . .
It is not even clear that standardized tests are a particularly useful measure of student learning, says Marion Brady, a lifetime educator, former college education professor and author of "What's Worth Learning." . . . "There's a whole range of thought processes: making inferences, generating hypotheses, and generalizing and synthesizing and valuing ... that every human being engages in every day, and nobody knows how to test them (with standardized tests)." When a country builds its education system around standardized tests, and standardized tests are incapable of measuring what needs to be measured, says Brady, "it's a recipe for catastrophe." . . . .
The amount of weight put on tests for assessing not only students but teachers, administrators, schools and even whole states is what led to cheating in Atlanta on such a huge scale, Rogers-Martin says. Kids from underprivileged backgrounds can succeed on these tests as well as any kids, but "it's going to take them a little more time (on average) than it is other children. And there's nothing wrong with that."
Ross Wiener, Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2011
It’s important to understand that cheating in Atlanta was systemic and pervasive. Eighty-two of 178 educators implicated in the investigation admit cheating; misconduct was documented in 44 of the 56 schools examined (the entire district is 100 schools). One school organized an “erasure party” where teachers and administrators created a social occasion out of illegally and immorally faking their students’ test results. . . .Worried that the scandal will undermine test-based accountability, reform advocates are diminishing its significance. Just a few bad apples, they argue . . . .But their critique fails to recognize that what went on in Atlanta most assuredly was not a case of individual bad actors. The problem is that the system encouraged and abetted the violations in ways that we do not yet fully understand. Good people — many of them — resorted to reprehensible behavior in Atlanta Public Schools.
Ironically, the recent focus on more rigorous teacher evaluation should help on this issue. While there is some danger that increased pressure to improve test scores will push more teachers to cheat, the new policies are pushing school systems to build essential capacity. For the first time in most places, districts and states are explicitly describing the practices in which they expect teachers to engage. To support evaluations, states and districts are developing detailed rubrics that articulate how teachers should plan, engage with students and parents, instruct, and assess student learning. Observations against these rubrics create higher-quality, more actionable information about what’s going on in classrooms. Teachers finally can get meaningful feedback and guidance, and alarms can be raised when results are strong but instruction is weak.