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June 11, 2010

Students Cheat Like Hell On Standardized Tests
Wait, Did I Say Students? I Meant Their Teachers

Doin' it because they love it.

The staff of Normandy Crossing Elementary School outside Houston eagerly awaited the results of state achievement tests this spring. For the principal and assistant principal, high scores could buoy their careers at a time when success is increasingly measured by such tests. For fifth-grade math and science teachers, the rewards were more tangible: a bonus of $2,850.

But when the results came back, some seemed too good to be true. Indeed, after an investigation by the Galena Park Independent School District, the principal, assistant principal and three teachers resigned May 24 in a scandal over test tampering.

The district said the educators had distributed a detailed study guide after stealing a look at the state science test by “tubing” it — squeezing a test booklet, without breaking its paper seal, to form an open tube so that questions inside could be seen and used in the guide. The district invalidated students’ scores.

It's a national phenomenon -- investigations in a bunch of states point to this sort of cheating by teachers.

Fair Point! Dagny writes:

Of course they are cheating. They are being offered money if their students get the right answers? And nobody thought they would cheat? I'm super ethical but even I would have trouble not trying to see the questions and cover them in class. Duh.
That's a very fair point. It's true that if you create huge incentives to cheat -- or, more generally, to game the system as far as welfare benefits, tax loopholes, etc. -- and little downside, ethics is generally going right out the window.

It's like a store owner who makes absolutely no effort to detect or deter theft. He's practically telling people, "It's okay if you steal from me."

A lot of times our stupid government just doesn't take basic human failings into account, and drafts laws and implements policies on the theory that we are a nation of angels.

We're not.

In this case, as Obama would say, the school bureaucracy "acted stupidly" by circulating the tests prior to their administration. They should have been delivered the night before the test, like the SATs.

At some point, such glaring encouragement of cheating -- of doing just what the teachers did here -- looks less like teacher malfeasance and more like a winking conspiracy by the bureaucracy.



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posted by Ace at 11:27 AM

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