"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 31, 2011

As the Stakes Rise, So Does the Cheating

From the NY Times:
Complaints of tampering with the state Regents exams have ballooned since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of New York City’s schools, newly released data show, placing in stark relief the conflict between allowing teachers to grade their own students’ tests and raising the stakes on the results.

As the city and state turned test scores into make-or-break indicators of school and student success, the portion of city public high schools facing allegations of test tampering rose to 7 percent in the 2009-10 school year, from 1 percent in 2002-3. Over all, the state has recorded complaints of cheating by educators in more than 100 city high schools, about a fifth of the total, since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. During the same time period, the number of complaints in the rest of the state’s high schools tripled.

While it is unclear how many of the allegations were ultimately proven, the steep rise in complaints itself is notable at a time when cheating scandals have engulfed other districts and  state officials are acknowledging a failure to adequately detect and prevent cheating.

The previously undisclosed database containing the allegations, a 62-page printout of which was obtained by The New York Times last week, provides a window onto the ways that high-stakes testing is roiling school communities, with principals accusing teachers, teachers accusing principals and teachers accusing other teachers.

Brief narrative descriptions illustrate the ways in which educators are alleged to be inflating student scores — which can help save their jobs, earn them bonuses or keep their schools from closing — and, in some cases, deflating scores to spite colleagues. Parents are frequent whistle-blowers but are occasionally implicated as well, suspected of taking exams home to help children or conspiring to keep a child’s failing score off the books.. . . .

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