I am Hal’s total lack of surprise:
Widespread cheating on 2009 standardized tests in Atlanta Public Schools — despite “significant and clear” warnings — harmed thousands of students and resulted primarily from “pressure to meet targets” in a data-driven school system, according to results of an investigation released Tuesday.
Of the 56 schools that were examined, cheating was discovered in 44 of them — that’s more than 78 percent — and 178 teachers and principals were found to have cheated on standardized tests, according to a statement released by Gov. Nathan Deal and first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Eighty-two confessed, while half a dozen others pled the Fifth Amendment, which is an implied admission of wrongdoing under civil law.
And cheating was found years earlier than the 2009 administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT, according to the statement (which you can read in full below.)
The cheating has devastating consequences. Because the scores were inflated, tutoring was denied for many children that desperately needed it. And Atlanta is not alone. The DC public schools were caught in a big scandal last week.
This is completely expected. As documented in James Bovard’s The Bush Betrayal, Bush and his Secretary of Education Roderick Page had the same thing happen in Texas. The schools falsified dropout rates and test scores to meet various criteria for continued funding. NLCB, built on the Texas reforms, was put in place with almost no safeguards against cheating and sometimes allowed the states to define “success” for themselves. And to he astonishment of everyone, the policies that produced cheating in Texas have now produced cheating on a national level.
I was once a big proponent of testing but my support has waned as my support for school choice has waxed. There are simply not enough people to watch the schools and the incentives for cheating are simply too great. In this case, we had an organized systematic cheating effort and the only reason it is unique is because we have yet to hear about others.
You can’t fix the public schools without removing the word “public” from them. We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars finding that out. Do we really need to keep going down that road hoping that someday, one day, we’ll find the secret sauce to make the system work?
Update: More from Freakonomics. Most schools destroy the tests after scanning them, which prevents erasure analysis.