The Racket With Standardized Test Scores

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson says that creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than children to cheat cannot be the right path to improving American education. 

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Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson says that creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than children to cheat cannot be the right path to improving American education.

It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform -- requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students' standardized test scores -- is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket.

I mean that literally. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of the Atlanta public schools, was indicted on racketeering charges Friday for an alleged cheating scheme that won her more than $500,000 in performance bonuses. Hall, who retired two years ago, is also accused of theft, conspiracy and making false statements. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Also facing criminal charges are 34 teachers and principals who allegedly participated in the cheating, which involved simply erasing students' wrong answers on test papers and filling in the correct answers ...

For educators who worked for Hall, bonuses and promotions were based on test scores. "Principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated," according to the indictment.

But there was a sure-fire way to meet those targets: After a day of testing, teachers allegedly were told to gather the students' test sheets and change the answers. Suddenly a failing school would become a model of education reform. The principal and teachers would get bonuses. Hall would get accolades, plus a much bigger bonus. And students -- duped into thinking they had mastered material that they hadn't even begun to grasp -- would get the shaft.

Read Eugene Robinson's entire piece at the Washington Post.

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