Over 30 schools in New Jersey are being investigated because an unusually high number of answers were erased and corrected. An ultimatum has been issued to teachers in Atlanta to resign or be fired over testing improprieties.
WHY would teachers cheat? What could possibly be behind such unethical decision-making? Why would so many risk their jobs?
I'm not condoning the choices made by these teachers and the principals involved but...
*I don't work in a school whose funding depends on the scores of the students in my school?
*I don't work in a school where failing students would mean less money for me.
* I am not being evaluated on the performance of my students on external, standards driven tests.
*My school has not been publicized for being one of those schools that's not up to scratch.
*The names of my colleagues and I will not be listed in a Los Angeles newspaper along with our value-added rating!
There is little doubt teachers and administrators in many states are under extreme pressure to have the students do well on large-scale HIGH STAKES testing.
I feel lucky to be working where I am (at a great Canadian school!) but questions certainly come to mind when I consider and compare my own teaching situation to that faced by many other teachers elswhere.
Am I alone accountable for the achievement of my students this year?
If they didn't all do well, does that mean I'm not an effective teacher?
How accountable am I for the content in the curriculum guides for the courses I teach? Do I have to get it all covered? What if I need to spend more time on something key?
What if I were teaching a course where students had to do a final exam worth 50%?
Is curriculum just what is in between the covers of those guides?
How do we 'cover' the outcomes while applying differentiated instruction for the increasing number of children with special needs that are part of our classroom communities?
Would I teach differently if I was being evaluated each year on the performance of my students?
Not gonna get it all worked out in the short term but ...
maybe the headlines might help focus attention on the problem,
maybe some of the powers-that-be might take a second look at the situation, and
maybe more parents will ask questions about the pressures put on schools, and the people in the them working hard to be teachers!
I can't help thinking something's not quite right when we lose sight of who we teach
and we care more about measuring what we teach.