Cheating Teachers Forgot Education Is About Our Kids


standardized testThe news that nearly 200 teachers in Atlanta were known to throw "changing parties" to adjust kids' standardized test answers, thereby making themselves look like better educators, has rocked the nation. "How dare these teachers betray these kids?" pundits are asking. Simple: because ours is a nation that took the educational emphasis off individual kids a long time ago. In short: no one cares about our kids but us.

As a parent, it's depressing to think about my kid being "just a number," but as she pushes ahead in the public school system, I can't deny it. The halcyon days of kindergarten are behind us, the rote memorization and teaching to the test are to come. I'm the only one left to ensure she's "well-rounded." It's my job as a parent, maybe, but I would appreciate some help on the way. Sadly, I don't expect it from our overwhelmed teachers.

In the post-No Child Left Behind era swept in by former President George W. Bush, our education system is focused on competition. Pitting teachers against teachers, and even worse, pitting kids against kids. Standardized tests that sweep away individuality in learning styles for the sake of an easy number to stamp on kids' permanent records are now de rigueur. And the better a school performs, the better they'll look in President Obama's Race for the Top to gain federal monies to improve the schools.

Don't get me wrong. What 178 Atlanta elementary and middle school teachers were doing, faking their kids' success, altering documents, lying to officials, is a travesty. If the kids are failing the tests, it means they're not LEARNING the material. But it's a mark of a system that the best way teachers see to help kids is to make it LOOK like they're helping them. I'm only surprised we haven't found more teachers doing this. Because failing kids are ignored in today's education system, changing test scores doesn't just make a teacher appear to be doing a better job. It positions those kids for more positive attention, their school for more of the much-needed federal dollars. The education system has been rebuilt so that cheating is better than admitting you're having a rough time.

What does that teach our kids? Nothing in figurative AND literal senses. They aren't learning the material, but what may be even worse is they aren't learning that it's OK to fail. What's important is that you ask for help, that you find another way to succeed.

If we want to keep teachers from being pushed to change test scores, it's pretty simple. We cut out the competition and get back to our kids, each kid, the individual. As parents, we do it every day. We adjust our expectations to meet our kids' needs.

Do you feel like your kids are learning more about competition in school than anything?


Image via albertogp123/Flickr

elementary school, education


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1blue... 1bluemonkey

I don't feel that way, at all, because my kids go to one of the best public school districts in Texas.  The homework my kids bring home is rigorous, there is a lot of higher-order thinking evident, and the tests in each subject are so demanding that the state's standardized tests are a cakewalk.  TAKS time is a joke for my kids - it's a week to catch up on their library books.  The new requirements for the end of course exams that are rolling in starting this year are more rigorous than what the state previously required, but they will still be an afterthought.  GOOD teachers still teach the content, everywhere - just because there was one bad batch up in Atlanta doesn't mean the system is completely broken.  Teachers still care that the kids learn how to learn.

nonmember avatar amy

bluemonkey, I'm going to hazard a guess that you will be one of the few, if not the only, to feel that way. You are very lucky that your kids are in a great school. Unfortunately, most kids aren't. A vast majority of the teachers I know, at least, say that NCLB has ruined the school system. They can't spend the time necessary on each individual child anymore because everyone is just lumped together for the tests anyway. And with the demise of the gifted programs in most schools, that means teaching at a rate the slowest student can understand. So when you HAVE to cram the test information in them, and you have a couple students who just don't get it, guess what you spend the majority of your time going over? So the whole class gets pulled to the lowest level, and nobody wins. Schools shouldn't be awarded based on the test results alone. These teachers want to get the money for their schools, which is admirable, but the only way they can see to do it is to cheat, which is not. But, while I don't mean to advocate cheating, the government has kind of left them little other choice. I went to school in the 90's and feel like I got a MUCH better shake than our kids today. And it's that feeling that will have me homeschooling my two children when the time comes. I don't want my child's education dependant on governmental standards. I want my kids to actually learn, instead of memorize for a test then forget two weeks later.

momto... momtothemax2910

Ya know I empathize with them. I have friends whose jobs were in the line for the kids oerformance on the standardized tests alone. Not performance in the classroom, not the students progress over the course of the school year but whether or not they could teach to a standardized test which for a lot of people have trouble with. Heck I know several honor roll students that suck at standardized tests but ace papers and essays.

Standardized tests do not gauge what a student learns.

DomsM... DomsMama07

My kids aren't in elementary school yet but I hope I don't feel that way when they are!

cmari... cmarie452

NCLB is a horrible piece of policy. It's screwed teachers and children. It's forced teachers to teach the test rather than actually teaching our children the knowledge they need. It's so strict, there's no wiggle room and many gifted children are being left behind because the tests have limited what is taught and therefore what they can explore. It hurts far more kids than it helps and prevents teachers from doing their job.

nonmember avatar Anon

If demonstrable learning does not matter, then why do we have public schools at all? Fire all the teachers and let each parent figure it out for her own kids. Give the taxpayers back the money we dump into the schools only to hear "they expect us to actually TEACH their children?!" If it's impossible, stop trying. In what world is it acceptable for a person to spend 12+ years in school and still be ignorant? Only in the USA.

nonmember avatar Connie Joiner

“In many of my school visits, I go into classrooms where there are Teach For America teachers, and I’m always impressed with them. I think Teach For America is having an impact in more ways than we probably even realize right now.”

Dr. Beverly L. Hall

Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools

momto... momtothemax2910

Anon, standardized tests are NOT a reasonable demonstration of learning. They only measure one portion of cognitive ability. My brother can calculate square footage of any room for painting or tiling and eye ball distances within inches or hear something and be able to explain what he has heard but has failed every standardized test he's ever taken. He's reading comprehension has always been poor but visually and audibly he excels. For students like he was standardized testing cannot measure their learning.

mjande4 mjande4

@Connie, I take great issue with your "Teach for America" stance.  What those undertrained, cheap, individuals do is take jobs from highly trained and dedicated teachers.  Districts like to hire them because they work for next to nothing.  The problem with this is they only stick around for a couple of years and if you know anything about struggling students, they need consistency as do the schools themselves.  I will not hire anyone in my department from this program.

Sherr... SherriPie

I don't think they're learning about competitino, but they do learn that those scores are important...and even then they don't care.

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