Teachers cheating on standardized tests

<p>"Of all the forms of academic cheating, none may be as startling as when educators tamper with children’s standardized tests. But investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and elsewhere this year have pointed to cheating by educators. Experts say the phenomenon is increasing as the stakes over standardized testing ratchet higher — including, most recently, taking student progress on tests into consideration in teachers’ performance reviews.</p>

<p>Colorado passed a sweeping law last month making teachers’ tenure dependent on test results, and nearly a dozen other states have introduced plans to evaluate teachers partly on scores. Many school districts already link teachers’ bonuses to student improvement on state assessments. Houston decided this year to use the data to identify experienced teachers for dismissal, and New York City will use it to make tenure decisions on novice teachers...."
NYT:</a> Teachers tamper with test scores - The New York Times- msnbc.com</p>

<p>One district I know of had two adults in every room to ensure cheating didn't happen. The principal didn't let teachers know their proctoring "partner" until just before the test. This practice cut down on the teachers' ability to aid students and resulted in more accurate testing.</p>

<p>The measure protects the students AND ethical teachers.</p>

<p>As a teacher, I had so many opportunities to re-mark my students' tests. For the earliest grades, some of the answers are in a booklet, right next to the questions. We were also instructed to erase any extraneous marks, or darken / complete the circles. There we were with eraser and pencil marking up the student's book. </p>

<p>Then, since testing days are so long and tiring, no one hung around late. So, with a near empty school and questions that you know the students "should have" known, it was tempting. This never, ever happened, but I imagine it could very well occur, especially if your salary or your job depended on those test results.</p>

<p>What I experienced was that some teachers followed the instructions "to a t" about reading out the verbal instructions, while others explained the instructions outside the script, because they knew their students wouldn't understand the scripted directions even though they knew the material. That morphed into coaching.</p>

<p>As well, first graders who are accustomed to their teachers constantly helping them began to CRY when the teacher suddenly said she couldn't help them decode a word. They'd melt down and refuse to fnish the test. They never had a "test" experience longer than a 10-word spelling test, and then suddnely there's this 2-hour, 2-day behemoth called standardized testing that turned the school upside down. It was not an emotionally appropriate situation, cognition aside, to test children that young for that long. IMO. </p>

<p>Also I had a math supervisor with a Ph.D. come into my room who didn't like that the 6-year-olds talked to themselves under their breath while they worked (sounding out words on their lips, as I'd taught them to do under normal circumstances) so asked me if I knew where some tape was. When I turned around, half the class had masking tape over their mouths. I was HORRIFIED and demanded she remove it immediately. So yeah, keep those "proctoring partners" coming in to make sure the teachers stay honest.</p>

<p>Additionally, we saw the tests the day before and anyone who wished to could do a last-minute lesson in new, unfamiliar vocabulary if they wanted to enhance the class's ability to do better on a reading comprehension test. If you knew the question had the word "elevator" in it and you were looking out at 6-year-olds who all lived in wooden houses in upstate New York, guess what -- you taught them all what an "elevator" was before the test because you knew that downstate First Graders from NYC all knew that term. </p>

<p>Or when I taught in a poor rural mountain area and saw the word "curb" and "sidewalk" coming around the bend, yes I taught the farmkids the meaning of the words "curb" and "sidewalk" the morning of the test day. I didn't tell them the words would be on the test. I just didn't want them to all tank on that question that depended on understanding those two words. Their ability to read and decode it, once they got to it, was up to them. I just couldn't stand that they might be able to read it and then not know what on earth it meant. It's the reverse of taking away all the old "farm animal" questions and replacing them with all urban and suburban references.</p>

<p>Shoot me.</p>

<p>Many of those in the test-making business haven't seen a first grader up close and personal since their own elementary school years. Standardized tests are rarely appropriate for primary school children. It seems very unfair to base a teacher's job performance on these tests.</p>

<p>Testing first graders in this format is cruel and inhumane. </p>

<p>They are much too young.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Or when I taught in a poor rural mountain area and saw the word "curb" and "sidewalk" coming around the bend, yes I taught the farmkids the meaning of the words "curb" and "sidewalk" the morning of the test day. I didn't tell them the words would be on the test. I just didn't want them to all tank on that question that depended on understanding those two words. Their ability to read and decode it, once they got to it, was up to them. I just couldn't stand that they might be able to read it and then not know what on earth it meant. It's the reverse of taking away all the old "farm animal" questions and replacing them with all urban and suburban references.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>How are you trying to spin this? You cheated, plain and simple.</p>

<p>The honest teachers in the city didn't coach the kids for the cow and goat question.</p>

<p>The honest teachers in the city have been teaching their kids nursery rhymes and stories with "cow" and "goat" in them for years, even if they've never seen such animals in their lifetimes. The honest teachers in farm regions don't have stacks of kid-lit books where "curb" and "sidewalk" are repeated and part of a child's acquired vocabulary by age 6. </p>

<p>Do you want to see city kids handle a question with "silo" in it to figure out if they know their long "i" and long "o"? Which word better tests the phonics of "ough" -- cough (which is universal) or trough (which only farm kids would have encountered by age 6).</p>

<p>I'm glad they replaced a lot of the rural references, but they replaced them with urban references. That is my point. No need to teach a child what a cow or goat is, even if they live in Bed-Stuy. But curb? sidewalk? That's dependent on a rural child's family income level to have traveled to a city before First Grade. Most haven't.</p>

<p>You are still trying to justify cheating?</p>

<p>I live in Metro Atlanta, where this is a huge story. The system with allegedly the most cheating is the city of Atlanta, where there are huge financial rewards given to the staff at schools that reach a certain proficiency. </p>

<p>In the City of Atlanta, the superintendent has reaped huge professional and financial rewards for the gains of the schools, which have mostly been at the elementary level. </p>

<p>The Atlanta Journal just did an interesting comparison of all schools' test scores this year vs last. They looked at both grade level to grade level comparison as well as migration, one grade level to the next. The drop in test scores at the schools that had the most severe suspicions of testing is significant.</p>

<p>You can read about it here:</p>

<p>CRCT</a> failures rise at schools suspected of cheating | ajc.com</p>

<p>I think that one of the things that has gone so very wrong in Atlanta is that the cheating has been going on for so long that the benchmarks are so incredibly fouled up making it impossible for the scores to rise on their own from year to year.</p>

<p>There are multiple crimes here. One is that this test (like most state generated tests in GA) isn't very difficult, so these kids who are being passed with help of cheating really lack basic skills. The second is that the City of Atlanta hasn't implemented reform models that really seem to be working, longer school days and more of them for low income, at risk students.</p>

<p>I think p3t is trying to enlighten us as to how ridiculous it is to administer standardized tests to primary school children as well as illustrate cultural differences that make the tests irrelevant</p>

<p>"cheating" in the context of p3t's experience might also be called "leveling the playing field". His/her anecdotes point to a fundamental problem of standardized testing. The words that test makers spent a lot of time taking out because they skewed the tests in favor of the wealthy (e.g., regatta), are out. But all tests use words, and the lives of the test takers can make those words easy or unintelligible, even if you can read them. If you read the book "The Blind Side", you see an example.</p>

<p>One of my family members is one of the people who write those tests. I remember an outcry a couple of years ago about the cleansing of some passage with part of the story sanitized. I don't remember specifics - some kind of violence or sex in a literary passage. Most of the people complaining about the parts of the passage that had been taken out had valid points. But when I talked to my family member, he said none of the complaints or the defenses that people put forward had entered into the testing organizations thinking. Instead, he said that in testing the test passage, they found that whole segments of the children would stop at that (now redacted) passage because it was so outside of their experience, they were totally distracted by the shock of reading about this behavior. While kids who knew of such behavior before the test, would merrily keep on going, while the kids who were more sheltered, simply stopped and spent time thinking about the subject matter itself because of its shock and novelty. So the company took it out, or in the view of many, "censored" it. Wrong? or just common sense?</p>

<p>With such an inherently flawed approach, but no better approach available, how can we put so much emphasis on tests?</p>

<p>If you are from NYS you know about the Regents; one of the dumbest HS testing systems I've ever known. The way a student can pass the Regents is to spend some time reviewing the past 50 years worth of tests, as they rarely change. If I still had my Regents Review books I bet my kids could use them for studying and find the same questions on the Regents tests they're taking next week! </p>

<p>p3t is just taking her knowledge of what's on the test and teaching to the test. It's what every NYS HS teacher does for the Regents. Is it cheating? No. The students are still learning, they're just learning that which the state decides they will be tested on.</p>

<p>It also brings up the stupidity of testing statewide or nationwide. People experience different things depending on their experiences and location. Does that make them brighter than someone else? Of course not! In the past we have enjoyed and celebrated those differences, not so much anymore. Of course a rural kid knows different things than a city kid than a suburban kid than an inner city kid. If teachers don't have to worry about statewide tests they can teach the same things but in different contexts. I remember my boyfriend in college was an accounting major at the state Ag School at Cornell back in the 70's because it was cheaper than the endowed schools. The only differences was learning livestock or porkbelly futures vs corporate or gold futures or something like that. He learned the concepts but built around the appropriate specifics.</p>

<p>I hate this teaching to the test, but, as hayden states - it's an inherently flawed approach and yet, we put so much emphasis on these tests. What's the option?</p>

<p>Teaching to the test is not stupid. It is necessary for the students and teachers. If you don't do some teaching to the test, how are you going to be sure the material you teach is what is important to the district? Danged straight, you had better teach to the test.</p>

<p>However, the actual tests should be under cover until test day, and proctors be assigned to different schools so that the chances of teachers cheating is lowered. When tenure, money, jobs are tied to the test results, the temptation to cheat becomes great. Teachers are human and humans cheat when things important to them are at stake.</p>

<p>When my son was in the third grade and taking a high stakes standardized test, he handed in his finished test. The teacher pointed out a few questions that he "needed to take another look at" and sent him back to his desk to work on the test again. He told me about this because he knew something wasn't right, but was confused since it was his teacher. I regret that I never told anyone at the school. This teacher had been at the school for a long time, so I'm sure this wasn't anywhere near the first time. She may still be there.</p>

<p>If the child hasn't been exposed to those terms before being tested, than the test is flawed.</p>

<p>As Hayden pointed out, there are people who write the tests that don't necessarily see why they are confusing. Trading urban references for rural ones isn't the answer. Providing examples that are contextually appropriate to a child of a certain developmental age would be ideal. Sometimes we, as adults, don't understand which words aren't part of a young child's framework. </p>

<p>I was in the car with one of my teen D's friends the other day and she asked me about some word she heard in English class. I was surprised that a kid her age didn't know the meaning, but often words we take for granted as adults haven't been "exposed" yet to a child or teen.</p>

<p>I don't think what paying3tuitions did is cheating. Why should a kid be penalized for not knowing what something is solely because of where they live? I remember my d taking a math test in grade school, and one of the questions was to estimate how much a cd costs. She had never been in a position to have any idea how much a cd would cost. I thought it was a stupid question to have on a math test. Now if they were testing her on her retail purchasing skills, that would be different.</p>

<p>I am not sure if a third grader today even knows what a cd is. Don't they download all their music off the internet? ;)</p>

<p>A school in our district consistently had incredible results, year after year after year. Blue ribbon school, blah, blah blah... Turns out the principal collected all the tests and changed the answers on a LOT of papers year after year, after year.
This was in the national news for about 2 weeks! Aside from betraying kids, parents and teachers, this guy also impacted real estate prices! It was awful.
Test results are no longer published in the newspaper.</p>

<p>samuraiLS - good point regarding CD's. And how about "clockwise"? I think kids still learn analog time, but it won't be long before that goes the way of the steam engine.</p>