Could they have gotten away with it?by Marc Severson on Jul. 14, 2011, under Education
Almost prophetically, Arne Duncan wrote a blog on two issues recently.(1) One was the Race To the Top and the second issue was the temptation to alter data in order to qualify for that grant money. It seemed that no sooner had that blog been published and the news from the Atlanta schools was released.(2)
When I first heard of the scandal I was dumbfounded. I told my wife, who is also an educator, that I could not believe so many people could possibly be involved in such a scheme.
It made me think. What would it take for teachers to purposely skew the results of a test? The answer was simple – money. But this is grant money that they won’t see. The money for RTT is . . . intended to support bold new plans to turn around struggling schools, revamp teacher evaluation, and implement common academic standards, among other efforts.(3) True, it will free up other funds but is this merely greed? Certainly it is not money for them.
Why then would they cheat?
The answer is still as simple, money. It is money to replace money that was taken away, money to fund the yet unfunded mandates, money to support or upgrade technology that is hopelessly outdated, money for books, toilet paper, pencils, and a slew of other items. As teachers we have all lived through this.
I looked inward. Could I have done that? I can sit here and say, “No.” but at the same time if I thought that I could increase funding for education just by changing a few pencil marks, would I? I can only hope and believe that my professionalism would prevent it.
So why did they do it? It bothered me . . . a lot!
Thinking lead me back to a basic premise of my educational career. When I worked at a preschool many years ago, I came up with the phrase, “Winning the Race at their own Pace!” It was hackneyed and simplistic but it encapsulated a philosophy that I lived by. I believe that education is a developmental process. I believe that children learn best in a real world not a virtual one. I used to say, “Sure, you can teach a three-year-old to read but why would you want to? They have more important things to do.” I still believe that. I used to have a bumper sticker on my car — “Childhood is a Journey, Not a Race!” It was not a slogan I created, I wish I had, it came from syracuseculturalworkers.com, but I believe it.
Judging children based upon high stakes testing is fundamentally wrong. This is a core belief that has driven my career.
But it is not just that. It’s what our children are learning. They are under assault ; they are being attacked. The attack is one of knowledge. The things that kids know about their world today are very different from what I knew when I was growing up. They have so much more information to absorb than I did when I was a child.
I cannot judge whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, it simply exists, it is their reality. But it makes my job much harder. Children today enter classrooms with more varied experiences and backgrounds than ever before. The challenge for teachers is to connect with each of those children and their combined experiences and convince them that they have the information they will need. It is a daunting task.
Public education must adapt to this, or die. Teachers and educational professionals must discover effective methods to deliver necessary curriculum and make it work. There is no other choice. Obviously cheating is not going to solve that issue. In the end I can say that to cheat would defeat my basic philosophy.
Ummm, how much money was that?
3) Race to Top Winners Rejoice, Losers Parse Scores By Sean Cavanagh , Stephen Sawchuk and Sarah D. Sparks http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/08/24/02rtt.h30.html