In “America’s biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal unfolds in Atlanta” (Christian Science Monitor – Tue, Jul 5, 2011), Patrik Jonsson writes:
Award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by 178 named teachers and principals, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday. His office released a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that names 178 teachers and principals – 82 of whom confessed – in what’s likely the biggest cheating scandal in US history.
This appears to be the largest of dozens of major cheating scandals, unearthed across the country. The allegations point an ongoing problem for US education, which has developed an ever-increasing dependence on standardized tests.
The report on the Atlanta Public Schools, released Tuesday, indicates a “widespread” conspiracy by teachers, principals and administrators to fix answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), punish whistle-blowers, and hide improprieties.
The Atlanta cheating scandal also offers the first most comprehensive view yet into a growing number of teacher-cheating allegations across the US, reports of which reached a rate of two to three a week in June, says Robert Schaeffer, a spokesman for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which advocates against high-stakes testing.
“I think the broadest issue in the [Atlanta scandal] raises is why many school districts and states continue to have high-stakes testing without rigorous auditing or security procedures,” says Brian Jacob, director of the Center on Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan. “In some sense, this is one of the least worrisome problems in public education, because it’s fairly easy to fix. The more difficult and troubling behavior would be teaching to the test, which we think of as a lesser form of test manipulation, but which is much harder to detect, and could warp the education process in ways that we wouldn’t like.”
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Update (7-11-11, 11:45 AM): In “2009 Report Identified Dozens of Pa. Schools for Possible Cheating” (Education Week, 7-11-11), Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa say:
Dozens of schools across [Philadelphia and Pennsylvania] were flagged in a study of 2009 state standardized test scores that sought to use statistical analysis to ferret out possible examples of cheating on the PSSA exam.
The analysis, prepared for the Pennsylvania Department of Education in July 2009, highlights roughly 60 schools with suspicious results due to multiple statistical irregularities, including 22 Philadelphia district schools and seven Philadelphia charters.
Among the Philadelphia district schools referenced in the report is Roosevelt Middle School, which has been at the center of a controversy this year involving alleged cheating on the PSSA. In 2009, the analysis reveals, results of both the reading and math PSSA exams taken by Roosevelt’s 7th and 8th graders showed a highly unlikely number of wrong answers that were erased and changed to the correct answer. The results also showed highly improbable increases over the previous year in the percentage of students who scored proficient or advanced.
Porter stressed that that statistical analysis alone, without witnesses or confessions, cannot definitively prove that there was cheating. But he added that the report “describes a reasonable approach to identifying schools where there may have been cheating.”
Nevertheless, it appears that the state never followed up with any further investigations.
© 2011 Editorial Projects in Education