"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cheating in Missouri Schools! But it's Not from the Students! The Sunday Education Weekly Reader 3.18.12

Welcome to the Sunday Education Weekly Reader for 03.18.12.  Instead of twitter tidbits, we are linking a story (Missouri Fails to Check for Standardized Cheating) published this morning in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Missouri has its own version of teacher cheating recently discovered in other states...tests being changed, students given answers by teachers before the tests were given, etc.  The state spends $8.4 Million to administer the MAP test to schools, however, none of that money is spend on test fraud detection services.  A familiar refrain is in this article....Missouri conducts no such investigations (fraud detection), giving school districts that sole responsibility.  

In other words, it's not DESE's fault.  Nope.  It's the fault of the school district.  If the district doesn't catch the cheating, DESE should not be implicated.  Here is DESE's response on the cheating:

Regardless of whether a district investigation confirms test fraud, Missouri education officials take the district's response as the final word. And when cheating is confirmed, the state issues no penalties, other than invalidating the affected students' scores. But the numbers of tests, the grade level and subject area involved are not easily available to the public.

"I know that feels to you like that's not really a penalty," Hoge said. But, "I would rather partner with districts in trying to take care of this than try to become the police."

What exact purpose does DESE serve?  It washes its hands of possible cheating scandals, citing budget restraints, yet DESE signs districts onto federal mandates that are severely underfunded and never brought to the taxpayer for a vote:
  • signed proposals for Race to the Top estimated by DESE to cost the state $400,000,000 in 2010 
  • just recently signed onto a Pre-K Race to the Top program estimated to cost $1,600,000,000.  
So while DESE is putting districts and taxpayers into more and more debt and foisting onto them unfunded financial burdens, DESE defends itself in not providing test analyses made available by the vendor, McGraw-Hill because of budget woes:

State education officials say looking for red flags would add thousands of dollars to the testing contract at a time when the state has cut department funding.

"There is a cost to that," said Sharon Hoge, an assistant commissioner at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "We have tried to rely on self reports in our districts in Missouri. I'm not telling you that means there are not things possibly that are going on that we don't know about."

DESE uses the argument it can't fund the observers in the schools (which it had in the past), so perhaps The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) should use the same argument with DESE and refuse to give the tests for MAP (and perhaps the assessments mandated by Common Core).  Districts shouldn't have to give tests for which there is no funding to fully administer and ensure testing integrity.

It's insulting and criminal  to parents, taxpayers and students when school districts, the state educational agency, teachers and administrators cheat and/or pass the blame of ineffectiveness of education on other agencies.  The article doesn't have one individual or agency accepting any blame for this problem.   If the ineffectiveness stems from
  • the sheer amount of control from the Federal and/or state mandates, then MASA should refuse to comply with the mandates
  • poor teaching, the teachers should be fired
  • lack of oversight from DESE, priority of funding to protect the integrity of the testing should be implemented immediately, and RTTT type of programming should be shelved due to the enormous amount of money needed to implement and fund testing oversight
With the increased scrutiny on teachers and teacher accountability determined by test scores, there will be many more stories in Missouri and other states about teacher cheating.  Is this the legacy of NCLB and RTTT?  Teachers cheating to save their jobs?  State agencies washing their hands of any complicity in cheating scandals?  

The bottom line is if this is what public education has been reduced to...assessments to determine accountability for students, teachers and administrators, set by the Federal Government, it's time to take your child out of this system.  It's a system that exists only to sustain the system, not your child. If no agency takes the credit for teacher cheating, what lesson is that teaching you?  Are these "professionals" in education the type of individuals who should be trusted to provide your child with a "quality education"?

More cheating scandal in St. Louis schools can be found here. 


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