So now state testing is causing some teachers to cheat? Now that is extreme. I’ve heard about teachers giving away answers and correcting some answer sheets before they turn them in but 60 teachers cheating in Atlanta? Unfortunately teachers like that give teaching a bad name. I assure you that most teachers are very dedicated to their profession and are great mentors to their students. The few that choose to cheat or do other illegal acts are the exception to the rule. So why do teachers cheat on the state tests? Although it is inexcusable, teachers are under a lot of pressure to show improved performance on these tests by their students. Funding is tied to these tests, states can take over school districts if they don’t perform well, and there is increasing talk of tying testing to teachers’ salaries. Now there is pressure. I’ve yet to have an administrator come to me to ask why my scores were low the previous year but I can imagine that it isn’t a pleasant conversation. If a teacher is new and in their probationary period of employment, their job could be in serious jeopardy. Teachers sign affidavits before they begin administering the state tests saying they will not cheat in any way but when nobody is watching, they could easily think they could get away with a few erasures and corrections. What can be done? Do we need these tests? Are they really accomplishing what we want them to accomplish? I think that the younger students can be realistically tested and they will try to do their best. The high school students are not easily convinced in any real benefit for them if they succeed in their tests. Tying testing to teacher pay may give a reverse benefit to high school students. Do we really want students knowing they can lower their teacher’s pay if they collectively do poorly on a test? Sounds like a good chance students might start blackmailing their teachers to get better grades. State tests are a huge expense as they take at least a week of instructional time to administer, they take many people to score and distribute, and many hours are spent analyzing and disseminating the information they provide. I propose these tests get cut like all of our budgets are getting cut. Tests should be given to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. In each instance students must be proficient in each area before they can move onto the next level. The students would then have real incentives to succeed on the tests. Teachers that have a high failure rate at that point should be scrutinized to find out why their students are failing. State exit exams can be eliminated since they’ll be useless (not sure they really have any use now).
There are many variables that have to be dealt with to carry out the changes I propose. For one, you must have a plan for students that are unable to pass the tests. I’d like to see vocational training for non-college bound students. Students that don’t pass the test their senior year could get a certificate of achievement instead of a diploma. These are just ideas. I’m sure there are better ideas than mine out there. Or maybe you can tell me what I’m missing. I just know that something has to change. A climate of teachers living in fear and being tempted to cheat is not a healthy situation.