Ken's Project Blog

July 13, 2011

Education in the News

Filed under: Education,In The News — Ken @ 4:40 pm

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, has been thinking about the state of education in the United States, and as she describes in her recent speech, she thinks she may have found the answer to what ails our public schools:

Weingarten said she has visited schools in Canada and Finland. Those countries and others, she said, “all put a strong emphasis on teacher preparation, continuous development, and mentoring and collaboration — and in each of these countries, teaching is a highly respected profession.”

In Finland, she said, teacher training is “demanding, rigorous and extensive.”

“Finnish teachers are esteemed and are compensated fairly, and their training is fully paid for by the government,” Weingarten said. “And they’re virtually 100 percent unionized, as teachers are in most of the top-performing countries.”

Source: CNSNews.com

She then went on to rail against various programs and efforts that attempt to help our students realize their potential by identifying under-performing schools, programs that typically involve standardized tests to measure the progress of the students – absent any other yardstick, I contend standardized tests are the best measure we have of student performance, but I digress. While Ms. Weingarten was off gallivanting around Canada and Finland studying their education systems, back here in the States we got a couple glimpses into the education system, and it wasn’t pretty…

In Atlanta, it has been reported that as many as 178 educators (teachers and administrators) were involved in an elaborate, on-going effort to falsify test scores on their state tests, going so far as to actually “win” accolades and bonuses for their students exceptional achievements.

Georgia investigators say 178 educators in 44 schools cheated on standardized tests used to meet federal benchmarks. Educators told state investigators they were pressured by administrators to improve test scores.

Source: ajc.com

It seems that rather than focus their energies on actually educating their students, these teachers choose to falsify test answer sheets to create the impression they were effective teachers. There were inquiries into this last year, but the state wasn’t satisfied with the findings.

It seems the teachers were so brazen as to actually have pizza parties where several teachers would come together, eat pizza, and falsify test answer sheets in a party-like atmosphere.

Over in Pennsylvania, there are reports that as many as 11 school districts there may have had a similar issue with teachers falsifying standardized test answer sheets in order to hide their effectiveness in actually teaching their students. The report was completed in 2009, but the findings weren’t widely known until just recently, likely in reaction to the reports of irregularities in the Atlanta school district.

While it is tempting to feel some sympathy for the teachers and administrators that find themselves participating in such activities, it is important to remember that if teachers, and educators in general,
want to be held up as highly respected members of society, they’ll have to earn that recognition, and events like this don’t help. Some argue that the teachers are being forced to “teach to the tests”, but that ignores the fact that these tests are based on state standards and curriculum requirements – not arbitrary topics that otherwise wouldn’t be taught. If the tests are found to be anything else, it is the responsibility of the teachers to fight to make the tests right – not to order pizza and bury their failures with an eraser and a number two pencil.

Sources:

aft.org: A Quality Agenda: How to Build Enduring Education Reform

CNSNews.com: Teachers Union Chief: U.S. Should Learn From Schools in Other Countries

ajc.com: Atlanta test-cheating probe fails to satisfy

washingtonpost.com: Officials replaced amid fallout from Atlanta test cheating scandal; Texas official on leave

pittsburghlive.com: New Kensington-Arnold ‘flagged’ for test scores

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