The State of Our Schools: An Update on Cheating



For high school seniors across the country, it’s college acceptance season, but for those in their junior year and below, final examinations, term papers, and projects mar the otherwise wonderful April sunshine. Although testing has a long history in schools, the passage and implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002 expanded the usage of testing in schools.

Standardized tests, to the architects of NCLB, were supposed to allow administrators to gather more data with which to assess schools, especially schools in high-poverty areas. Schools that failed to improve their scores would face escalating consequences. But 10 years later, the legislation is a failure to most experts. Nowhere are the drawbacks of No Child Left Behind more apparent than now, during testing season. As this space wrote previously, a number of cheating scandals have rocked school districts across the country.

In late March, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution connected the dots and released a report demonstrating a pattern of potential cheating across the United States:

 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examined test results for 69,000 schools in 49 states and found high concentrations of suspect scores in about 200 school districts. The findings represent an unprecedented look at the integrity of school testing, which has seized center stage in national education policy.

While the analysis doesn’t prove cheating, it found troubling patterns in hundreds of cities. Those patterns resemble early indicators in Atlanta that ultimately led to the biggest cheating scandal in American history.

To give just one example of suspicious behavior: “In nine districts, scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion.”

The implications of these findings were summarized best by the Journal-Constitution: “The analysis suggests a broad betrayal of schoolchildren across the nation.”

We can only hope that teachers, principals, and administrators across the country will do their best to prioritize the success and well-being of students, rather than their scores, as this school year draws to a close.

Image courtesy USA Today

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Ian Hainline

About Ian Hainline

Ian Hainline is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is from Chapel Hill, NC, and is a member of Judea Reform Congregation.

One Response to “The State of Our Schools: An Update on Cheating”

  1. William Berkson

    Thanks for noting this widespread problem, which has bee greatly increased by NCLB. As I’ve said to you and others at the RAC, I do hope you will take up the issue of stopping the corporate-inspired “reforms” that are seriously hurting American education. It would be far better to put the massive moneys, including for Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’, which in the same spirit, to better use. In particular, early childhood education, and excellent vocational education with apprenticeships for students after age 15. This is a key issue for the future of the US, and I hope the RAC will take it up. Diane Ravitch has been a leader on this, but has the mass of teachers all over the country behind her.

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