Just recently I read an article about a group of teachers who were turned in by a fellow teacher because their students’ test scores skyrocketed, and thus their job performance reviews did likewise. She was upset and partially jealous, that her students’ scores seemed to have plateaued while her teaching counterparts’ students’ scores continued to show growth. So many things can be said about the way she reacted. She was jealous of these teachers, she was being vindictive, she should be focusing on honing her own teaching skills, or any number of criticisms could be heaped onto this teacher. But as it turned out, she was right, they had been cheating. But do the means justify the ends? What if they hadn’t been guilty, what was all this hoopla and hollering for?
The problem is that school districts and our nation are using test scores on standardized tests to gauge student achievement and effectiveness of teachers. She could have been fired because her students were not performing or could have received numerous teaching awards had they done really well. This makes no sense what-so-ever. None of the teachers in this story are guilty of anything other than trying to save their jobs, both the tattle teller and the one’s guilty of cheating. It is the system that is guilty. A faulty system that ends up forcing people to do this to save their jobs.
All of these teachers, administrators, and politicians should be held accountable for their falsified test scores, for trying to deceive the public, and for benefiting from their fabricated results. However, as much as I find their actions reprehensible, for I was once a teacher, and cheating was never part of my repertoire of teaching, I don’t think they are bad people. The truth is that test scores are used not to track how the kids are doing, but secretly how well the teachers are doing. Politicians have tried to tie the funding that schools receive to the results of students on standardized tests, and use them as a measuring stick of the quality of teacher that the students have. This rationale is fundamentally flawed and results only in the further stratification based on ethnic, social, and economic lines.
Much to the chagrin of all my principals, my students’ test scores did little to affect how I felt about myself as a teacher. I knew and still know that these tests are not the only way to interpret student success in the classroom. I gave very little credence to the results of those tests and in how well a student actually was performing in class and would perform later in life. Unfortunately, these scores are used to “reflect” on how teachers are viewed as educators by our superiors and used by the general public to measure our teaching prowess.
What people don’t understand is that standardized tests are flawed. They are not testing what a student learned in class. They are not designed that way. They are designed to test general knowledge. It would be like me watching a random episode of Jeopardy and then based on how I fared on that show determining how smart I was based on my knowledge of the potpourri of questions asked. And then to take it one step further, judging Alex Trebek based on my results to determine his ability to host a game show. They are all separate measures.
Another problem with standardized testing is that there is no such thing as a standardized kid. I might have Billy who showed up in my 6th grade class reading at a 2nd grade level. And when he completes my class he is reading at a 5th grade level. Well, he is going to still test low, but in the span of one year, I caught him up 3 grade levels. Not to mention that for himself, he now has more self confidence and desire to purse schooling.
But then you show him that he failed on their test and that he is “far bellow average,” you have not only stripped him of his self confidence, you are reinforcing the idea that he is stupid and he then starts to hate school creating a whole litany of other problems. They then use the results to tell me I don’t know how to teach students effectively and the administrators, school board and general public are outraged and calling for my termination. It did not reflect my ability to teach, or the effectiveness of my lessons. Nor did it show his growth as a student, his ability to learn, or his desire to succeed. This is all hypothetical, but given those circumstances, I can see why a teacher would be tempted to falsify or outright cheat on these standardized tests.
The make up of the class is also important. If I have the highest achieving kids in my class, then my scores will reflect that. It does not mean that I am a good teacher because they scored well. I can be the crappiest teacher on the planet and they will still score well for a multitude of different reasons.
It could be any combination of outside factors that lead to that student performing well. I could be that they have parents who spend time with them, take them places, and enlighten them outside of school. They may be naturally smart students who can just perform well on tests or they can be high achieving students who are driven by themselves to do well.
The converse can also be true. Students could have tumultuous family lives, they just might not be the brightest of kids, or they could have no desire or motivation regardless of what their parents or their teachers say or do, and are going to perform poorly on these tests.
These tests are yet another example of how a viable American system will eventually be subverted by a group of scheming policy makers who are more inclined to do what is right for their benefactors rather than their country. I believe this is the intentional design of these tests. I do not believe that it is mixture of stupidity and inexperience that led to these tests being given this much emphasis.
Once it was proven to be a faulty measure of student and teacher performance it should have been scraped and a new method created. But it wasn’t. The fact that it had been broadened in scope and given more impetus, is clear that it is being used as a tool to lay waste to our public school system. Standardized tests are the wrong way to measures effectiveness, intelligence, and ability of both teacher and student. You can’t blame a teacher for trying to survive in a system that has been manipulated to make them and the students they teach fail.