Monday, July 18, 2011

A Response to the Atlanta Cheating Scandal: Nonviolent Protest


I've read several blog posts and articles in the past few days on the standardized test cheating scandal in Atlanta.  Most fall into one of two categories.  Either those who cheated are being vilified as criminals, or their actions are being touted as an inevitable result of high-stakes testing.

Those viewpoints are not exclusive.  What those educators did was reprehensible, and did a disservice to those of us trying to fight against the damage the current standardized testing culture does to our students.  It gave another reason for people to bash teachers and education.  Those whose minds can be changed are not going to be swayed by immoral behavior.  This kind of wide-spread cheating was also rather predictable.  I've covered the absurdity of tying student test scores to teacher and school evaluation in past posts.

In order for the general public to listen to those of us calling for real educational reform, we must hold ourselves to the highest of moral standards.  Cheating on tests cannot be an option.

Instead, school districts should simply refuse to administer the tests.

We know that they are harmful to our students.  We know that they are harmful to our schools.  We know that they have been harmful to our profession.

Don't we have a moral responsibility as educators to not harm our students, schools, and our profession?

JEFF WIDENER/The Associated Press
Think about what would happen if dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of school districts started refusing to give state tests and instead simply focused on good teaching.  What if the message we sent was, "We understand that you may fire us or cut our funding, but we refuse to harm our students any more for your political benefit."  This is the kind of message that resonates.

This is the kind of movement that led to Civil Rights reform, gave women the right to vote, gained India it's independence from Great Britain, and has changed the political landscape in the Middle East in the past 6 months.  Certainly it can help us change the system so that our students start receiving the quality education and opportunities they deserve.

Truth is Truth.  Let's start doing something about it other than cheating or complaining.

2 comments:

  1. If I were independently wealthy, I would protest the tests....but I'm not.
    I also will not cheat. It stands to reason, that good teaching will lead to better test scores. My goal is to stop teaching to the test...

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  2. Tammy,
    I agree that a focus on pedagogy and not assessment anchors is a good place to start for individual teachers. One of the mistakes that I've made in the past, and that I see us as teachers falling into is giving validity to assessment scores as a metric by accepting them and allowing others to define us and our students by them.

    "Good teaching will lead to better test scores." I've said it before, and it's probably true, but it's irrelevant. We need to start saying, "Good teaching will allow my students to think critically. It will allow them to be better equipped to overcome hardship and help others in need. It will help them question what they read, hear, and see, so that they can sift through bias and get facts." Those are a few of the things that matter.

    A number on an invalid test means nothing. We might as well judge students by their height. It's just as much a measure of how successful they'll be in life.

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