Cheating on Atlanta school tests: no child left unharmed
The Atlanta Public School system's ill-gotten gains in test scores reflect unethical behavior on the part of teachers and administrators. Period.
REPORTS of widespread cheating in the Atlanta Public School system are ugly in the harm they have done to thousands of schoolchildren. Blame teachers and administrators making the choice to cheat.
Apparently, Atlanta teachers and principals for years have methodically altered answer sheets for students taking state tests, boosting scores and transforming struggling schools and the district into an urban success story.
Critics of standardized testing would like to blame this unethical behavior on the pressures of high-stakes testing.
That excuse has been recycled, primarily by students worried about a failing grade. Parents rebuff those childish attempts with strong lectures about hard work and ethical behavior.
So there is no way to excuse teachers and administrators who manipulate test scores. They destroy a measuring tool that must be reliable if we are to trust our education systems.
Testing is the way educators know what is working in the classroom. Diagnostic tests alert educators to learning disabilities and other educational challenges. Summative tests given at the end of the school year offer a lens into the past year's effort and valuable information for the next year.
The millions of schoolchildren nationwide could not be educated without using tests to measure effectiveness. Yes, testing puts pressure on teachers. More so now that teacher effectiveness is prized over longevity. Similar pressure to meet higher standards is on students and parents.
One thing that may help thwart cheating is the shift to online testing. Most cheating occurs on paper-and-pencil tests where answers on bubble sheets are changed. A fourth of Washington state's students take tests online. More will over time.
Still, some will cheat and say the pressure made them do it. That is never an acceptable excuse.
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