DISCLAIMER: I tried to avoid writing this because I knew I could go on and on. I suggest you only read this if you have time to read from start to finish! You’ve been warned!
Well, aside from the childhood favorite: ‘I told you so.’ I am no longer a child, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t think that exact thought in my head when
what I and anyone else with common sense already knew the final report regarding the cheating allegations within the Atlanta Public School System was released. There was, in fact, cheating going on during the previous years’ CRCT administrations. And by ‘cheating’ I do not mean students looking on other students’ test sheets. I mean teachers and administrators erased answers in an effort to boost the schools’ and district’s test scores and ensure that both made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
Quite honestly, I do not know where to begin with this tomfoolery. On the one hand, you have the students who thought they passed the test on their own merit; I am sure some of them did. But on the other hand, you have teachers and administrators who violated testing protocol to ensure that their school made AYP. (READ: They cheated to make sure they got bonuses and kept their jobs.) Some staff members even resorted to ‘cheating parties,’ where they took answer sheets to the home of an administrator during the weekend to change answers. So now we have not one, but two testing violations: (1) Changing answers on a testing sheet; and (2) removing test documents from the school building without the authority to do so.
I decided against blogging about it (see how long that lasted?) and opted to tweet a few thoughts instead:
possible very likely that everyone involved (meaning teachers and administrators) will lose their licenses and/or face stricter penalties. (The state education officials need a scapegoat.) Kathy Augustine has been placed on leave as the new superintendent of the DeSoto Independent School District and local media sources are in Maui trying to locate Beverly Hall….and no, this is not a soap opera – I am still in the process of writing my blog. The truly sad part in this entire matter is that no one will address the issues and instances of bullying and intimidation suffered at the hands of administrators, area superintendents and the like. I am sure state officials will find other ways to tighten test security; however, the damage, not completely irreparable, has already been done. Someone needs to do the right, ethical, and difficult thing by addressing school culture and leadership. In this case, lack thereof ethical and moral leadership. But I know that people in authority roles are more interested in making friends/political allies and forging mutually beneficial (monetary) partnerships. As I stated earlier: Officials need a sacrificial lamb. In this case, they got 178 of them.
Now what? Grade inflation scandal? Those of us who have ever served time (pun intended) in a classroom already know that pressure exists to inflate grades to boost passing rates and G.P.A.s. I guess we need to wait another 5-10 years before ‘officials’ catch-on to that one. But I digress….
Parting thought: I dodged a bullet.
Earlier this week, the Georgia Department of Education released the overall results for the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT), which will become a thing of the past for the Freshman class of 2011 (READ: Performance for the state and districts as a whole, not the results for AYP subgroups. Those results will not be made public until mid to late-July) . I won’t go into my P.O.V. on phasing out the test here, instead I will save that for another day when I find myself
putting off struggling to write. Today we got a glimpse of the overall performance on the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), which is administered to kids in grades 3-8; those in grades 3, 5, and 8 are required to pass the Math and Reading tests in order to be promoted to the next grade. As I read the article in the AJC and Maureen Downey’s AJCGetSchooled blog, I didn’t even bother to dissect the scores or pop a bottle of champagne in celebration of the what they want you to think is good news. Instead, I pulled a few snip-its from the article, tweeted them, and added my own .02, which all follow below:
So they are spinning the test score results to say new Math curriculum might be working.How do we explain scores for h.s. students? #Georgia
And why in the heck are schools ‘preparing’ for the test at beginning of year? Let teachers teach & test prep is not necessary.
One student said a few questions were poorly written or confusing.http://ow.ly/5eoAZ
(This comment from a student is especially troubling.)
I won’t celebrate CRCT results until I see the AYP subgroup breakdown…which takes them FOREVER to release… #Georgia
And that last tweet is the motivation for writing this post: We cannot and should not measure everything our kids are supposed to learn based on one test, especially since that test does not measure growth. And we cannot distract the public from the real issue: The ever-present and pesky opportunity gap. Yes, my 4th grader passed all four sections on the first administration; I had no doubts that she would pass. But each day she came home and she said she was tired of testing….she said the same thing last year. Boy Wonder was one tired soul too. As a high schooler, he had to take End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) in three subjects as well as final exams in all six classes. That’s just testing overkill.
I will credit State Superintendent John Barge for phasing out the GHSGT and instead, using the EOCT as 20% of the final grade. However……..we still have to address the obnoxiously obese elephants in the room: The ‘new’ Math Curriculum and the toxic fall-out, including (1) the drop in GHSGT Math scores, (2) increase in the number of students taking remediation/credit recovery courses; and (3) the number of students who will be disqualified from receiving the HOPE Scholarship because their low Math grade lowers their overall G.P.A. (in core classes only). Yep, Boy Wonder now fits into two of the three afore-mentioned categories because he failed Integrated Geometry, and miserably I might add. Despite that setback, he still managed to crank-out a 3.1 G.PA. this year but more than likely he will be disqualified from receiving HOPE (both the scholarship and actual hope.)
But seriously, when are we going to start doing the things necessary to actually eliminate the opportunity gap? No, I am not speaking in terms of closing it because anything that is closed can easily be reopened, right? When you eliminate something, it is gone and has no chance of returning unless those in power create the conditions conducive for its return. Hmmmm….marinate on that one for a minute (or hour/day/week/month). I think that in order to eliminate the opportunity gap, we (all) need to acknowledge the reasons why there is a gap to begin with. Unfortunately, there are too many people who
are uncomfortable with the truth would rather believe that everyone has had an equal opportunity at eradicating generations (plural) of illiteracy, poverty, and just overall lack of opportunity.
I didn’t set out to change the world with this blog post. Instead, I just want people to keep their eyes (and ears) open, use discernment and common sense when people try to convince you that we are making considerable strides in education.
Spring brings warm weather, flowers, and Spring Break. If you’re a teacher or school student, you know that spring also signals the beginning of testing season. For elementary and middle school students here in Georgia, that means the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) and End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) for high school students.
According to a recent AJC article, this year’s testing season also brings scrutiny and tighter security measures due to the suspicion of testing irregularities surrounding several schools. Schools that had a high number of erasure irregularities, as well as those that did not will see some changes this year. For example, some districts will increase the number of supervisory staff members in schools to watch students as they test. The Atlanta Public School System has received a significant amount of media attention because it had the highest number of schools under investigation, with fifty-eight. I am still upset about the allegations, as the kids’ academic improvements have been called ‘questionable’ and some teachers have been falsely accused of either changing answers or prompting students towards the correct answers. In these cheating scandals, someone has to take the fall.
My 3rd grader will start testing next week. We already have a reasonable bedtime schedule and I make sure they eat breakfast each morning. Other than those measures, I do not plan to alter our routine. It is unfortunate that one test will measure an entire year of academic growth, accomplishments, and excellent teaching.