Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Two weeks ago, I spent the weekend at a kids' baseball tournament. In a shocking turn of events, one of the teams got expelled for playing a young man who was two years older than the rest of the kids. Yes, that's illegal according to the rules of the tournament and the league.

It's also stupid, in my opinion. These kids were not even playing for medals, let alone money or athletic scholarships! And--as two coaches on two of the other teams voiced to me, "What kind of message does that send to the kids?" That you kids need an older kid to help you out because your team wouldn't be good enough otherwise? That cheating is ok?

Sometimes we don't have very much clarity about what "cheating" exactly is. I recall letting a friend copy off of me during a high school French test. I didn't think of it as cheating, because I wasn't the one copying...

In college I got more clarity. My college had an honor code, and exams were unproctored. (How is that for trust? I once saw someone go up to another student and say, "I saw you cheating. You can turn yourself in, or I will turn you in." They turned themselves in.) In any case, at the end of a test, we had to write the words, "I have neither given nor received aid." So apparently, giving aid (letting someone cheat off of you) was still cheating.

What surprised me about July's baseball cheating incident wasn't that there was cheating in baseball. Every baseball fan knows the story of baseball's infamous 1919 Black Sox. But that was the World Series! The stakes were high! No--what surprised me about the tournament cheating episode was that people cheated even though the stakes were so low--no money, no prizes, just being named the winner.

Maybe that shouldn't have surprised me. After all, if my friend had failed that French test, she probably still would have had a B in the class--it wasn't a big test!

But when the stakes are higher, can we expect more cheating?
Apparently the answer is yes.

And it's not the kids, but the ADULTS, who are cheating. Those principals and teachers are setting some kind of crummy example.

Look at these national educational scandals, focused on test results and whether a school is making adequate yearly progress.



Washington, D.C.


At the same time, let's not forget that some of the educators refused to cheat. (Although I still wonder why they didn't turn their colleagues in.)

In a 7/17/2011 article, the New York Times writes:
Principals, in turn, humiliated teachers. At Fain Elementary, the principal, Marcus Stallworth, had teachers with low test scores crawl under a table, according to the report. At Parks Middle School, teachers who refused to join “changing parties” that were organized by the principal, Christopher Waller, to doctor answer sheets were isolated or let go, the report said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed this column by Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing,  APS cheating scandal reflects U.S. trend, which says in part:
The Atlanta cheating scandal is likely the largest in scope in U.S. history in terms of the number of people implicated. But it is hardly an isolated incident.

For more than two decades, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), has tracked reports of cheating from across the nation. The number of cases has exploded in recent years, with new reports nearly every week.
In the past few months, improper test score manipulation have been uncovered in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando and many smaller communities.
The Georgia Office of Special Investigators’ report on the Atlanta scandal provides a particularly cogent analysis of the causes of the problem. If politicians who mandate school policies heed its findings, it should have powerful implications for both federal and state testing requirements.
Here’s what the Georgia investigators found:
“Three primary conditions led to widespread cheating on the 2009 CRCT. The targets set by the district were often unreasonable, especially given their cumulative effect over the years. Additionally, the administration put unreasonable pressure on teachers and principals to achieve targets.”
Unreasonable score gain targets coupled with unreasonable pressure on educators is standard operating procedure for testing programs across the nation. Independent analysts conclude that nearly all public schools ultimately will be declared “failing” under the No Child Left Behind mandate of 100 percent proficiency. Teachers and principals face stern sanctions, including job loss, if they do not boost scores.  “A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation spread throughout the district.”
Read more about ways to make evaluation better at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing's web page,

1 comment:

  1. Assorted stuff comments on the
    cheating scandals. Key point:

    No, the tests themselves are not responsible for teachers and administrators trying to rig the system by cheating.

    However, the bigger scandal in all this is how USA Today and other media outlets uncritically assume this all-testing-all-the-time system of schooling is actually improving student learning.

    It’s actually cheating millions of kids out of a real education.