Why Education Needs Some Serious Reform

 Cheating Teachers

I hate this article. First, because I'm a teacher. Second, because I'm from Georgia. It shames me to be lumped into not one, but two categories with these people. If you don't have time to read the link above, let me just briefly sum it up for you: teachers cheated (yes, teachers and principals!) on the CRCT. It's the biggest cheating scandal in the nation (doesn't that make you so proud to be a Georgian?).  It may have even involved some superintendents. It's actually led to the first law enforcement investigation.

Now, if you're not familiar with the Professional Standards Commission (the PSC), which holds us accountable for, you guessed it, professional standards, let me tell you a little about testing ethics and the PSC. If we're caught cheating on an assessment, we're subject to losing our license to teach in the state of Georgia, among other things. It is also a criminal act to cheat on a test, as of last year. Georgia also has very strict testing rules, and let me tell you from personal experience- those tests are guarded better than the arc of the covenant (just google the CRCT testing administrative test booklet online- it's available for public viewing). We're even held accountable when there is a certain percentage of erasures on the test changed from wrong to right answers (now imagine if a kid misnumbers on the test what nail biting we do!) It's not that Georgia doesn't have the laws in place, they do. It's not that we're not forewarned of the consequences, we are. It's not that there aren't precautions in place to keep us from cheating, there are. But there's a problem. A big problem.

The problem is high stakes testing. There is so much seriously wrong with the way that the system is run that it can't be fixed over night. Or even in a week, month, or a year. This process will take years to fix. We can't get a true assessment of what's going on in a system, school, classroom, or in a kid's mind from one test, one day out of the year. We can't teach to a test. We can't treat our students one way all year round, give them accommodations and modifications, and then one day test them in a different setting under different circumstances and then expect results to be the same as every other student in every other classroom in every other school.

What we can and should expect is that every child can learn, and that every child should experience growth from year to year. What we need to assess is the measure of that growth, along with a portfolio of proof. What we need to look at is the success of a child in school in order to promote a better citizen later in life. What we need to look at is the curriculum and how it measures up to what they will be learning in college. We need to be including 21st century tools in our instruction in order to produce a student worthy of the newest technology out there when they walk across that stage and into a new life. We need to see teachers growing professionally so that they can give the best they have to the citizens of the future.

We cannot and will not ever do this with high stakes testing. High stakes testing is the worst thing we can do for everyone involved. We are telling our students they have to pass this one test at the end of the year in order to prove the year successful, and thus we are creating the most test anxious kids. I have had students on anxiety medication in third grade in order to cope with test anxiety! What are we telling our kids? We're telling teachers that they better have good scores, or else their job might be hanging in the balance (and don't even get me started on merit-pay for teachers- this is when teachers get paid based on the performance of students on the test). Many teachers are convinced that the only way to achieve this is to teach to the test (this is teaching so that kids will be successful on the test, not necessarily learn the curriculum & often they don't use the powerful instructional techniques to teach this way). I have heard of teachers using test-coaching books 3 hours a day for their at-risk students! This isn't teaching. It isn't learning. This is drilling. This is memorization. We're telling schools that if they don't make Adequate Yearly Progress (or AYP) towards that 100% goal, that instead of giving them more money or help, we're going to take it away(this is part of No Child Left Behind, in which 100% of children, no matter what disability or income are supposed to pass the high stakes testing we have in place). And, don't forget, because of No Child Left Behind, 100% of our children will pass the test, or else! Forget about the schools, like mine, who have 89% of students on free and reduced lunch, so parents aren't available for help after school. Forget about those students with disabilities. Forget about the students who are slow learners, but don't qualify for special education so they get pushed further along and fall further behind. In No Child Left Behind (or as teachers like to call it, No Child Left Untested), the only ones that get to move forward are the ones that are naturally high achievers or at least average learners. The rest are stuck where they are (at least we're not leaving them behind anymore, right?).

Now you tell me, if you have a sick child, are you going to take away his medicine, because he will get better on his own or at least, die trying?

I don't, in any way, shape, or form condone cheating. But, can you blame a child who is afraid of failing, a teacher who is afraid of losing her job or getting a pay cut, a principal is worried all the teachers at his school could possibly be fired if they don't make AYP and his job will be replaced by some robot of the state (this can happen if you don't make AYP 5 years in a row), or a superintendent who fears the same fate? 

You can't tell me that there's not a better way.

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