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SIMMONS: When teachers are cheating, everyone is cheated
Question of the Day
Here's another feather for the cap of advocates who want to establish solid lines that link actual teaching to actual learning.
Mere test scores are insufficient.
Indeed, with the Benghazi, IRS and Justice Department scandals top priorities for the media, you probably missed this news flash from inside the Beltway: "Officials in 40 states reported allegations of cheating in the past two school years, and officials in 33 states confirmed at least one instance of cheating. Further, 32 states reported that they canceled, invalidated or nullified test scores as a results of cheating."
Those revelations are from the U.S. General Accountability Office, which released the findings May 16 as Obama administration and congressional leaders were, separately, hashing out who would be appearing on the Sunday talk shows.
The GAO news should have a made a huge splash for another reason, too: The U.S. Department of Education has spent more that $2 billion since 2002 to measure and intervene on standardized-test cheating and irregularities.
And here's the other $2 billion rub:
• In Atlanta, 35 educators have been indicted in what arguably is the most widespread public-school cheating ever. The 65-count indictment accuses the educators of conspiring to cheat, conceal the cheating and retaliate against whistleblowers who wouldn't go along with their conspiracy. Convictions could put each scoundrel behind bars for 20 years.
Their goal was to boost students' test scores for the money that often follows the high praise that follows the high test scores.
Also, Atlanta parents learned Friday that their children's school records are being subpoenaed in the cheating case, which means those families' personal information — Social Security numbers, dates of birth, financial information, etc. — are going to be in the hands of still more government bureaucrats.
• D.C. officials, under fire since a cheating scandal was uncovered in 2011, repeatedly have said there is no "widespread" cheating scandal. What they need knocked into their noggins is that the operative word isn't "widespread," it's cheating.
The cheating problem runs deeper than authorities even suspect.
• In Memphis, Tenn., a former teacher and assistant principal, Clarence D. Mumford Sr., recently was sentenced to seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges in a 63-count indictment that spelled out a 15-year conspiracy of doctoring driver's licenses and enlisting teachers to impersonate others in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi so they could take teachers' exams. Some states require teachers to pass exams to get licenses and certification. Witnesses testified that they paid Mr. Mumford thousands of dollars so someone could take the test on their behalf and that he passed much that money onto the test-takers, some of whom were actual teachers.
His motivation was "greed and financial gain," U.S. Attorney Edwin L. Stanton III said.
Let's recap. Real teachers are cheating, and teachers who want to be teachers are cheating. In the meantime, taxpayers are being cheated out of their money and students aren't actually learning what we think they're learning. And — and — because the cheaters are under microscopes held by government bureaucrats, all that personal information you thought was under tight wraps is in the hands of bureaucrats whose goal is to scrutinize that information in the public's best interests.
That's why what happened at the Internal Revenue Service is so outrageously scandalous.
That's why teacher pay and effectiveness should be tied and measured with student-achievement yardsticks — not necessarily test scores.
To mint a new phrase, "it's the teaching, stupid" — not stupid students.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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