Direct from America’s cheating capital comes an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article describing suspicious test score patterns in lots of districts around the country. According to the analysts, who looked at scores from 69,000 schools, 196 districts had swings so extreme that the odds of them occurring by chance alone were less than one in a thousand. While the newspaper acknowledged that its analysis is not proof of cheating, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel wrote that it should trigger a thorough review. The union boss’s support of transparency on this issue is heartening: Wide-spread cheating undermines the foundations of standards-based reform and further investigation is indeed warranted. Accountability based on objective measures of student knowledge demands that those measures be accurate and trustworthy, else myriad efforts that rely on a clear understanding of performance—merit pay, tenure reform, VAM—are damned. But, of course, those are things that Van Roekel and his crew abhor, so he spoiled his message about cheating by also bemoaning the “corruptive influence high-stakes tests have had on our students, teachers and schools.” As Checker noted in July when the Atlanta cheating scandal first broke, the appropriate response to testing improprieties is increased transparency and test security, not abandonment of test-based accountability on grounds that educators are unable to resist the temptation to bend or break the rules. Such arguments disrespect the integrity and professionalism of millions of educators who work to improve their students’ performance through quality instruction and honest evaluation—educators like the ones Mr. Van Roekel’s organization should be representing.
“Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation,” by Heather Vogell, John Perry, Alan Judd, and M.B. Bell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 25, 2012
“High Stakes Testing: Who's Cheating Whom?” by Dennis Van Roekel, Huffington Post, March 28, 2012