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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

High stakes standardized tests have perverted education

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet

by Valerie Strauss

A public elementary school in Texas that was given “exemplary” status for student achievement only taught reading and math to third graders last year and made up grades for each student in social studies, science, music and other subjects.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Roslyn Carter, principal of Field Elementary School, has been placed on paid administrative leave after investigators from the Dallas Independent School District investigators uncovered falsified grades for third-grade students during the 2010-11 school year.

A report by the investigators said that Carter was essentially obsessed with ensuring that students passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. For the past two years Field has earned the state’s highest school rating, “exemplary,” in part based on the results of the test. Third-graders take the math and reading portions of the assessment.

The incident is just the latest in a string of scandals around the country involving cheating by teachers and principals designed to lift standardized test scores.

Probably the most dramatic were the revelations this past summer about widespread cheating on 2009 standardized tests in Atlanta Public Schools. Several months earlier, a USA Today investigation raised suspicion of widespread cheating in Washington D.C.

Dallas school district spokesman Jon Dahlander told The News that students who need remediation in subjects that were not taught last year are receiving it.

The report cited 10 school employees, mostly teachers, for failing to report actions involved in the falsification of grades, and it said some teachers had accused Carter of threatening them if they did not follow along. She denied making threats, according to The News.

There isn’t any good excuse for any adult in any school building to cheat, but as long as high-stakes testing remains the focus of assessment for schools, students and teachers, expect more of it.

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