Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools: Unintended Consequences Div.

(Via Connie)

Teachers Helped Students Cheat on Standardized Tests in California

LOS ANGELES (AP) – At least 75 California teachers helped students cheat on standardized exams since a new testing program began five years ago, according to a newspaper report citing state documents.

Incidents include teachers who gave hints by drawing on the blackboard or leaving posters on the wall, told students the right answers and changed the students’ responses themselves, the Los Angeles Times reported, referring to documents obtained through a Public Records Act request.

Hmm. The LA Dogtrainer.

Well, I guess it’s possible that even after holding Gray Davis’s skirts and slinging mud at Arnold “The Actor” Schwarzenegger, they might still have one or two investigative reporters who actually understand the job. It is, after all, possible that they could find their own asses without a map.

The teachers were among more than 200 investigated in California for possible cheating since a statewide exam program began five years ago.

State education officials say the numbers of proven cases are small in a state with more than 200,000 teachers.

Yes, the number of proven cases. But what’s the criteria under which “cheating” is established?

Some educators said temptation to cheat soared under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which can take away funding or reassign teachers in schools with consistently low test scores.

Yes, the Law of Unintended Consequences again raises its ugly head.

And, of course, it’s all Bush’s fault.

Except the investigations began five years ago, after a STATE exam program began. “No Child Left Behind” was signed on January 8, 2002, just over two years ago.

And anyway, Kerry says NCLB is failing because, like every other government social program, it’s “underfunded.”

So far the state has intervened at 56 schools with poor scores, shaking up staffs. The federal government has warned 11 California campuses that they could lose funding or face other sanctions.

“Some people feel that they need to boost test scores by hook or by crook,” said Larry Ward of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a watchdog group that has criticized many standardized tests. “The more pressure, the more some people take the unethical option.”

After all, what are “ethics?” Who’s to say one morality is superior to another? What matters is how the teachers feeeeeel, right? And if they’re OK with it, how dare we judge? We might affect their self-esteem!

Union officials said cases of possible cheating soared after the statewide testing began. Since 1999, the California Teachers Association has defended more than 100 teachers accused of cheating, compared to one or two a year before that, chief counsel Beverly Tucker said.

In some cases, the teachers were allowed to stay; others were fired or resigned, the newspaper said.

California allows districts to determine punishments, and most districts, citing privacy, do not disclose those decisions. State officials say they can’t afford to do much checking up on districts.

What do you want to bet they get reassigned to other schools in the district, or are shuffled off to other districts with a glowing recommendation?

Where they get to remain bad teachers.

UPDATE, 5/23: Tom of Center Digit posted yesterday a link to the original LA Times piece on the scandal minor blip on the radar screen. Money quotes:

One cheater whispered answers in students’ ears as they took the exam. Another photocopied test booklets so students would know vocabulary words in advance. Another erased score sheets marked with the wrong answers and substituted correct ones.

“It’s serious,” (Beverly Tucker, California Teachers Assn. chief counsel for 16 years) said. “And I can understand there might be cases where dismissal is warranted because of a blatant violation…. Teachers really are supposed to model appropriate behavior for children.”

(Gee, ya THINK?)

In 2001, the state flagged test results for five Bakersfield classrooms with a lot of erasures. District officials concluded that three teachers had coached students to change answers.

Marvin Jones, director of research and evaluation for the district, said the teachers’ explanations included not understanding the rules, “everybody does it” and “I was trying to help the students do what I knew the students can do.”

The teachers were not fired — partly because “we have unions to deal with,” he said.

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