Atlanta’s testing scandal adds fuel to U.S. debate | ajc.com
Atlanta’s testing scandal adds fuel to U.S. debate | ajc.com.
Pressure to meet testing targets was a major reason cheating took place in 44 Atlanta schools involving 178 educators, according to a state investigation released last week.
This comes as Georgia and states across the country are working on new strategies to retain, pay and promote teachers and principals based — in large part — on how much growth students show on standardized tests.
In Atlanta, teachers who confessed to cheating told investigators they felt inordinate pressure to meet targets set by the district and faced severe consequences such as a negative evaluation or termination if they didn’t.
In Atlanta, local targets went beyond the goals set under No Child Left Behind. Investigators said “targets were implemented in such a way that teachers and administrators believed they had to choose between cheating to meet targets or failing to meet targets and losing their jobs.”
NeilS — The original story focuses on 178 teachers and principals in 44 schools in Atlanta that were cheating for their students on standardized tests. If you hit this link, you will find the audio for an OnPoint NPR audio that gives even more details than the above posted article. According to the podcast, teachers went as far as to create “cheating parties” where groups of teachers got together, brought their students’ tests, and literally erased the wrong answers and put in correct ones.
The above quotes may seem like defense of the teachers, but it is more a commentary on the system in which they have to work. If they have to pay a mortgage and support a family, should they cheat or fail to meet the testing requirements and get fired?
Anyone interested in the variety and depth of systemic problems such as this should absolutely run to the local library and pick up Dr. Deming: The American Who Taught the Japanese About Quality by Rafael Aguayo. This is a fantastic book on management that focuses on how systems more than individuals actors in the system are to be blamed for low quality results. In this case, the teachers want to keep their jobs so they cheat (FYI I’m not using that as a moral justification.) According to Deming, it would be the structure of rewards and punishment that causes this problem and the problem will persist and spread (reports of teacher cheating are popping up nationwide) until the root of the problem is fixed.
Some recent consensus has emerged that a better system of rating teachers could be based on year over year increases in performance since many school districts have distinct advantages than others for passing standardized tests.
What do you think? Are the teachers immoral or just actors in a larger picture that expose problems with the system at large?