by David Safier
High states testing has higher stakes for teachers and administrators than students. Jobs, money and prestige are often on the line. So naturally, teachers and administrators have been caught cheating to boost the numbers even though, in my experience, teachers are an extraordinarily moral bunch. It's inevitable when the stakes are that high, and it's just one of many reasons high stakes tests are a poor measure of student achievement.
Here's the latest scandal. The National Blue Ribbons Schools Awards go to schools with chronically low scores which show major improvement. But, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lots of those schools have improbable test results. How improbable?
In some grades and subjects, the odds of increases occurring without an intervention such as tampering were incalculable.
The paper saw these statistically improbably jumps in dozens of the "Blue Ribbon" schools.
At two-thirds of the schools with the most unusual gains, a majority of students came from poor families. Poverty is typically among the toughest impediments for strong test achievement, researchers say. Yet in just one year, many of the schools rocketed from among the worst performers in their states to among the best.
There's no proof of cheating, mainly because it takes some serious detective work to actually get confessions from the people involved. And how many school districts want to go to the time and expense of proving some of their staff members are cheating -- and maybe have fingers pointed at top level administrators who insisted schools to improve their scores?
On a related note: Ed Supe Huppenthal and the Goldwater Institute love Carpe Diem Charter School in Yuma, because it's the poster child for "blended learning," which, if implemented, could cut teachers and make big bucks for online curriculum companies. When Carpe Diem's test scores went way up, they trumpeted this a proof of the quality of the school. But in an earlier study, there were strong indications Carpe Diem might have cheated on some of its tests. What have we heard about this allegation from Huppenthal and G.I.? Crickets. Nothing but crickets.