Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

'How Many Testing Scandals Do We Need As A Wake Up Call?'

    Do allegations of systematic cheating on standardized tests by administrators and teachers shows national education policy is “on the wrong track”?

    Just as we’ve investigated allegations of teacher cheating in IndianaThe Washington Post‘s Answer Sheet blog has been keeping tabs on the scandals making national news. Recently, guest blogger and education policy analyst for FairTest Lisa Guisbond offered her thoughts:

    Atlanta school leaders were taking their cue from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates 100% “proficiency” on state tests by 2014. That goal is now widely understood to be unattainable.

    The epidemic of cheating from Los Angeles to New York City and Orlando is rooted in this irrational mandate. Rather than address the problem, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has raised the stakes ever higher. His Race to the Top program’s incentives link teacher evaluations to student test results and expand the amount of testing. This can only intensify the pressure to “do whatever it takes” to boost test scores, a problem the Atlanta investigators clearly identified.

    In our reporting for our cheating story, Terry Spradlin, associate director of IU’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, confirmed Guisbond’s claim: NCLB sets unrealistic goals for schools — but in Indiana, they, more less, already have addressed this problem. Here’s a partial transcript of StateImpact‘s interview with him:

    Those targets for districts to meet AYP [Annual Yearly Progress, a central tenet of No Child Left Behind] need to be changed, methodology needs to be changed. That in part will be a solution to this growing epidemic. But at the state level, Indiana is revising and moving more toward a Growth Model system, so if a school district is showing improvement, those districts too can meet a higher label in accountability system.  With growth [in test scores] being factored in more heavily in those systems, schools with higher poverty in urban community can show greater growth for kids passing ISTEP.

    Do you think Spradlin’s right? Have Indiana policymakers addressed the problem? Or is Guisbond’s argument that there’s too great an emphasis on test-taking in general more persuasive?


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