Check it out:

ATLANTA – A suburban Atlanta principal who resigned during an investigation into cheating on students’ standardized tests was arrested Friday and accused of altering public documents.

The school’s assistant principal also turned herself in to local police Thursday night in a case that the head of a state teacher’s group described as rare. School officials allege that the two changed answers on fifth-grade standardized tests to improve scores and help their school meet federal achievement standards

This sort of behavior (only alleged so far in this case, but whatever …) can not be tolerated at all, because we need less, rather than more, blindingly bureaucratic oversight in our schools. Accreditation should mean “doing a good job and we trust them” and not “no one has been arrested for any felonies lately.”

Jeesh.

Details here.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan J
    June 20, 2009

    It’s sad enough that so many schools have become places where the primary goal is to teach children how to pass these standardized tests. Now we have these bozos… I don’t even know how to address it. Yes, I’m thinking torches and pitchforks might not be a bad idea.

  2. #2 Jason Thibeault
    June 20, 2009

    If there’s anything thing that rankles me with any degree of regularity, it’s cheating. Cheating at something so integral to the proper development and education of the children you’re responsible for, well, that makes it just twice as galling.

  3. #3 dreikin
    June 20, 2009

    Eh. Schools lose funding if they do badly on those tests, so I’m not too worried about it. If they did NOT do this to prevent their school from becoming even worse through (even more) lack of funding), *then* I see it as a problem. Otherwise – more places should do that just so the govt finally figures out No Child Left Behind and related laws are broken. Or the govt finally recognizes its war on education – whichever comes first.

  4. #4 Anon.
    June 20, 2009

    I agree with #3 dreikin. Standard tests have nothing relating to education that trumps good funding.

    Nevertheless, the level of funding seems logically to require inverse proportionality to the test scores, so if this finally gets figured out by those pedants who wallow in this mire, can we expect to see teachers encouraging pupils to enter wrong answers in their SATs?

  5. #5 Bill James
    June 20, 2009

    If we’re going to start driving school administrators (and teachers) into the swamps with pitchforks and torches over number fudging then we might as well start a fresh round of new school construction in the swamps.

  6. #6 NewEnglandBob
    June 20, 2009

    I’m sorry, but I participated in ‘standardized tests’ in the 1950s and 1960s in New York state called the Regents exams. They were quite effective. We students knew what to expect and we were able to demonstrate our knowledge and the ratings were quite detailed – pages long.

    I agree that ‘No Child Left Behind’ is poorly run but that is due to the lack of funding and the lack of consistent national standards, not because of standardized testing.

  7. #7 Azkyroth
    June 20, 2009

    Cheating at something so utterly orthogonal to the proper development and education of the children you’re responsible for, well, is still pretty galling.

    Fixed it for you.

  8. #8 Azkyroth
    June 20, 2009

    I’m sorry, but I participated in ‘standardized tests’ in the 1950s and 1960s in New York state called the Regents exams. They were quite effective. We students knew what to expect and we were able to demonstrate our knowledge and the ratings were quite detailed – pages long.

    I participated in standardized tests in the 90s. They were useless for a variety of reasons, including highly artificial and arbitrary questions and limited breadth, but mainly because the schools blatantly taught to them. When preparing kids for tests becomes more important (and funding is structured so that it must become more important) than preparing them for higher education and/or the work world, standardized tests are an active impediment to “proper development and education,” and that’s what is happening here.

  9. #9 Jason Thibeault
    June 20, 2009

    I admit before the comments in this thread, I was unaware as to what exactly “No Child Left Behind” meant, other than a slogan. So your correction is well placed, Azkyroth. If you’re only giving money to the schools that are doing well, that’s the opposite of making sure no child gets left behind — that’s just applying to the scholastic system the conservative money management philosophy that all money should be accumulated upward. Absolutely abhorrent.

    That they *have* to cheat, just to get the funds they need to actually potentially improve their standardized test scores, so that they can pull up their students’ bootstraps so to speak, is so ass-backward I’m at a loss for words.

  10. #10 Bill James
    June 20, 2009

    Come now Jason. How do you go from Azkyroths statement to yours? (abhorrent conservative money management philosophy — needing to cheat to get funds???)

    Public schools don’t have to cheat to get the funds (unless they have no substandard children who qualify), but they will cheat to keep the funds should students earmarked for the money continue to fall below standards.

  11. #11 Rystefn
    June 20, 2009

    I remember being in a senior in high school, having passed the exit-level standardized test of the day (TAAS) two years previously, and still having to sit through twenty minutes of test prep every class period for months on end. By all reports, it’s gotten worse since then. The way funding is based on test scores, I’d be surprised if said reports were wrong.

    It’s a terrible thing to cheat that way, but it’s a terrible system that makes feel they have to.

  12. #12 Bill James
    June 21, 2009

    I just read the linked news article and yes, directly altering answers on the test is a rare occurrence. Almost nobody is foolish enough to approach the problem that way when so many other avenues are available.

    A good friend is a district secretary in the special needs department and rather than attempt to recall offhand all the methods used to exploit HR1 and the myriad of state programs, let me see if I can get a list from her (anonymously) to pass along here. And if such can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time of course.

    Speaking only for what our local school district does, it’s manipulation straight out of the freak zone with children harvested from the general population to fill slots depending on special purpose funding availability. With much of the funding opportunities found variable from year to year, so too must the school district maintain great latitude and flexibility in attaining and maintaining the qualifying requirements. Monetizing the school district is always the primary focus.

    Indeed, our local tax base only provides approximately 15% of needed revenue, the rest obtained through state (78%) and federal (6%) sources, mostly state. (Percentages from reported 2007-08 data (WI-DPI))

    At any rate how it all works is roughly this: We need bodies to qualify for various programs and if we don’t have enough then we recruit them from the general student population. In the case of HR1 there is a performance initiative and if student in the HR1 category are not improving we transfer a portion of the lowest performers to an “Alternative School” which is housed in the same facilities but considered separate while transferring in better performing replacements. If we need lower performers we’ll promote the requisite number of bodies back into mainstream special ed and perhaps all the way back to the general population. This is how we match needs to funding sources while maintaining performance criteria over the term. And it’s all horribly variable and intermixed with and between special needs, special ed, alternative ed and HR1 generally.

    Much to our chagrin we’ve had great turnover in district administrators recently and as a result have lost a great deal of critical management continuity. Moving into the coming school year our school district is on HR1 probation meaning we must show improvement to minimal HR1 standards to insure continued funding. To accomplish that we need to cull a large number of below average performers from whatever category their in now and place them lower if not all the way out the door which in HR1 parlance means alternative settings. We will also deplete the ranks of our gifted and talented alternative program and place those bodies into the general student population to help pull those numbers up.

    Now I’ve done a very poor job of explaining this and all won’t be making perfect sense because I do not have a complete understanding nor perfect memory, but such is the gist of what I’ve been told by people on the inside. We juggle bodies which juggle numbers in turn depending on what the desired outcome is and the desired outcome depends on where the money is available and what we have to do in order to qualify or remain qualified receiving it. Obviously a complete bastardization of intent, but so it goes.

    As to playing with test scores… I doubt you’ll find this school district attempting to directly modify results on statewide standardized tests since that has already been accomplished indirectly by allotting who will be taking the test and which test is being taken should there be categorical differences. Otherwise there is a myriad of ways localized test scores can be skewed up or down, curve grading, sliding scale, etc. Excel is your friend and if that seems complicated a number of software packages are available to plug numbers into along with the desired result.

    In fact I sat in a school board meeting a few years ago debating that average is a range instead of a pivot point – this concerning academic qualifications for extracurricular activity – and whereupon the high school principle flat stated that 63% of the student body was statistically considered above above average by our numbers. Not quite Lake Wobegon but getting closer. He was smiling as foreheads hit the conference table upon the opening of that can of worms and resigned a couple months later. Can’t run a railroad with those numbers, the result of meeting demands of a school board wholly bent on reports showing numerical improvement. Reality set in with the results of standardized testing.

    It’s all about the children. In our modest community the school district is an 80 Million dollar per year corporation and most of that money is payroll and benefits. An educational factory providing jobs of which children are a feedstock. If the demand is for numbers then numbers you will have.

    In closing I might comment that I’ve yet to meet a person employed by the school district in any capacity that believes that “No Child Left Behind” is a good thing. I can’t recall meeting anyone on the Internet that thinks otherwise for that matter, although they must be out there. At the time of HR1 passage our Representatives voted the bill up with 89% bipartisan support. Only thirty four Republicans and ten Democrats dissented. Feel good legislation I suppose. We don’t need any more of it. Public education is a mess and I doubt Fed Gov can find a way out. If they can I suggest they lead by the example of a DC school district currently worst in the nation. But then we must also acknowledge the vast majority of current problems and solutions reside within our respective Statehouses. At some point this has all gone horribly wrong and it would be good to reflect on the reasons why.

  13. #13 dreikin
    June 21, 2009

    Bill James:
    That’s still cheating. If you have to do anything unusual and unexpected, like messing with the categories to get the ‘best’ mix for a particular test in order to maintain funding, it’s still cheating.

    The system is so screwed up funding-wise, that cheating is not only becoming (and should be!) normal, it’s also becoming an art form.

  14. #14 Bill James
    June 28, 2009

    dreikin: I’m torn between agreeing wholeheartedly or simply agreeing in principle. Nevertheless it is shuffling kids around to game the system. The travesty is not when a kid needs to be shuffled, but when kids are shuffled simply because it is economically advantageous to do so.

    Take a kid to the slight left of the bell curve but well within median distribution and put him or her on the short bus with the corresponding ‘tard’ stigma and chances are you just increased high school dropout potential by an order of magnitude.

    A few of those might fall into such depression they turn suicidal and a few of those might even be successful thus serving to bolster needs in request for additional funding for a suicide prevention program.

    As an aside (and this one struck a nerve at the time) I was sitting behind two recent graduates in a fast food restaurant and they were talking about coming down of Ritalin (or the equivalent)… talking about how everything was brighter, more colorful, more alive, how the food tasted different etc., and how difficult it was adjusting to a new reality. One kid said she started on the dope in third grade, the boy replied he was started on his chemical restraints in first.

    I’m going to stop now for it just pisses me off.