Valerie Strauss has a piece in the Washington Post that’s must reading for all those in education or who have an interest in America’s education policy.
She quotes Matt Damon’s speech at an education rally which contains this paragraph-
This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.
Indeed there are. And those in our Country seeking to undermine education are unworthy of respect or support.
Education officials in Atlanta promised swift action on Tuesday after an investigation uncovered systematic cheating by Atlanta teachers. A state investigation found evidence of cheating, including falsifying test results to make students appear to be peforming better than they were, in 44 of 56 Atlanta schools. The investigation named 178 educators, including 38 principles, and alleges that some educators who did not themselves change answers still knew what was going on — including former superintendent Beverly Hall.
I admit that there are lots of problems with standardized tests and even more with ‘teaching for the test’. But cheating??? Absurd. All those kids the teachers cheated for or allowed to cheat have learned a tragic lesson- take shortcuts and don’t work and be lazy and let someone else carry the load. And that’s a perverse lesson to learn. There are already too many lazy kids, and adults.
This really is sad. Even many elementary school teachers and administrators have been infected by the ‘how can we get the most money’ profit motive of Universities and Colleges, driving them to go so far as to cheat on standardized tests so they can get bonuses and rewards. Not only should Atlanta be ashamed, but all those who took part should be fired. Cheaters are a scourge and a disease on integrity and morality.
More than 50 schools in Atlanta were flagged for cheating, but the district chose to investigate only a dozen. And many critics, including the governor, complained that officials did not question enough teachers and administrators to find out who was responsible. … The tests are given to children in grades 1-8. The results determine whether schools meet federal benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind Act. Good scores mean high praise and cash bonuses. Failure to meet standards could mean losing hundreds of thousands in federal dollars, and could cost teachers and administrators their jobs.
As if any more evidence were needed that the whole No Child Left Behind act is a farce and a fiasco. Now teachers don’t teach, they teach for tests. They do nothing but test prep- because the all important idiocy of a federal law looming over their heads like the sword of Damocles keeps them from doing their jobs. Teaching for tests- that’s the best way of all the ensure that teaching doesn’t happen. Real teaching is instruction in and for itself, not as a means to a testy end.
At the end of the day it’s the government that has created the environment and conditions for cheating. The government encourages cheating by enacting idiotic laws which fail miserably to take into account both the methods and aims of schooling.