July 19, 2011

Cheat Sheet

Hatched by Dafydd

In response to the No Child Left Behind policy of George W. Bush, in which schools, administrators, and even teachers can be held accountable for incompetent "teaching" that in fact does leave children behind, hundreds, perhaps thousands of teachers and other school functionaries have decided to raise standardized test grades the old-fashioned way: by cheating:

Those sneaky students in the back of the classroom aren’t the only cheaters.

Teachers and school leaders are getting in on the scams by boosting test scores not through better instruction, but by erasing wrong answers, replacing them with the right ones and hoodwinking parents in the process.

Funnily enough, the cities where cheating runs utterly rampant are by and large Democrat occupied territory: Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. Except for Houston, which is a "divided city," they have all long been run by Democrats; and even Houston has a Democratic mayor -- and the last Republican mayor of that city left office nearly thirty years ago.

Democrats are likewise enormously over-represtented among teachers and "educators," as well. Given the Democratic culture of corruption and lawlessness, I find myself unsurprised that teachers, faced with evidence of their own failure to educate, respond not by improving their teaching skills but by honing their talents for trickery, dishonesty, fraud, and criminality; seducing their students to do the same; and then reaching out to powerful Democrats to deep six such few standards as still exist in this age of Obama.

Evidently, some see not the cheater but "the system," standardized testing itself, as the culprit:

Under No Child Left Behind guidelines, schools can be labeled “failing” if student test scores don’t meet state benchmarks. [Quelle surprise! -- DaH] Poor results are embarrassing for teachers and often cost principals, superintendents and school board members their jobs. By contrast, high scores on reading and math tests equal praise for those in charge.

In the face of such pressure, teachers and administrators sometimes go with their “natural reaction,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

“The teachers and principals who changed test scores did something unethical and probably illegal, [but they were] caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “We’ve created a climate that corrupted the educational process. The sole goal of education … became boosting scores by any means necessary.”

Yes, I'm sure we've all noticed in our own lives an utterly resistable compulsion to resort to dishonesty and criminality whenever we're not doing well at a task. Irresistable!

What's galling is that cheating teachers and administrators, and their Democratic political enablers, have redefined the whole point of standardized testing as some terrible, unanticipated flaw in standardized testing: If "student test scores don't meet state benchmarks," isn't that the very definition of a failing school? Students in "failing" schools clearly aren't learning; because if they were, they would do reasonably well on the standardized tests.

Wait, perhaps standardization is itself stultifying; why not simply allow teachers, who are closest to the students, to evaluate their performance via grading and just work with that?

But there is a flaw in the logic here: The whole original point of standardized testing was to correct for the previous form of teacher and administrator cheating: the routine promotion of students, regardless of their performance, and the hallucinatory grade inflation that invariably accompanied guaranteed promotion. In an effort to make themselves and their schools look good, and to get more of their kids into upper-tier universities, teachers gave much higher grades than the students had earned. Although on paper they were well prepared for college, in reality, they were utterly at sea from Day 1 and frequently dropped or failed out of university.

When I was a teaching assistant (TA) at U.C. Santa Cruz, in the math department, I was utterly appalled by the huge number of students who hadn't the faintest idea what a mathematical proof was, how to construct one, or even what one looked like -- and I'm talking about a calculus class for math or science majors, not "Math for Poets"! I had to spend the first few weeks just teaching these incoming freshmen the most basic elements of a mathematical proof, which they were supposed to have mastered before even being admitted to a math or hard-science major at any campus of the University of California.

In theory, they all had that skill; in their own minds, they were all learned in mathematical proofs; but in practice, perhaps a third of them were reasonably competent. The other two thirds had been shanked by their "compassionate" teachers.

To combat this kind of scholastic cheating -- teachers and principals cheating their students out of the education they thought they were getting -- state boards of education set up standardized testing and implemented the "No Child Left Behind" policy; which was flawed, to be sure, but was at least a step forward, not backward. If schools that are not actually teaching get labeled as "failed" schools, that is a feature, the main feature of the program -- not a bug!

Does anybody really believe that a teacher willing to erase wrong answers and write in the correct ones (assuming he or she knows them) would scruple merely to inflate a few grades for the same motivation? Wouldn't the same cheating teachers of today cheat just as much if working under a hypothetical, grade-only standard?

I wonder how many of the apologists for incompetent teaching were themselves taught by incompetent teachers, and perhaps became incompetent teachers in turn. How much opposition to standardized testing is nothing more than self interest and self defense?

I have argued for many years that the chief educational reform we need, the one that would do the most good, is not reducing classroom size; or implementing this or that theoretical, egghead pedagogy; or funneling ever more money into the insatiable maw of government schools; or Lord help us, handing yet more power to the teachers unions. None of the above. The most important reform is to root out the lousy, incompetent teachers from the classrooms, even if you have to use gunpowder, treason, and plot.

My gut feeling is that nationwide, at least twenty percent of K-12 teachers are so incompetent they should be fired immediately and perhaps sent to remedial education camps in a perhaps futile attempt to fill their own educational lacunae. But in some school districts, like the Los Angeles Unified, the incompetency rate is probably closer to 60% (based on personal experience as a child).

It's hardly a wonder that teachers unions and Democratic machine politics so often work foot in glove; it's a match made... well, not in heaven, perhaps, but a mating nonetheless.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 19, 2011, at the time of 4:40 PM


The following hissed in response by: Bart Johnson

Look into the Baltimore teachers' credentials. I have no recent info, but it was the case that more than 25% of the teachers could not pass the high school graduation tests. The teachers were using a rule that allowed them to be hired as 'temporary' teachers without proper credentials.
Temporary as in temporary tax or temporary rule, or temporary agency, department, etc.

The above hissed in response by: Bart Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2011 9:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: MikeR

I don't mind the standardized testing. What does bother me about NCLB is that it is massively weighted to cause overworked teachers to care about nothing but pulling the slowest kids in the class along. No Child Gets Ahead, either.

The above hissed in response by: MikeR [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2011 9:20 AM

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