Monday, June 30, 2008

Guess What? "Bonuses Are Us" Tweed/UFT Plan Lead to Cheating

...DOE alchemists turn a 4 into a 1.

Elizabeth Green's piece in the NY Sun on how South Bronx principal John Hughes got great scores by urging teachers to give a little bit of help, is more prevalent than is imagined. That was the modus operendi in my school for 25 years. Just as in this article, teachers at the school we fed into used to laugh themselves silly when they saw the scores. That the school just happens to be a bonus/merit pay school is gravy, but the bonuses are a new thing and will only exacerbate a problem that has existed for a long time.

The covert and overt cheating - and I look at the artificial pump of test prep as part of this - goes a long way to explaining how kids' scores drop dramatically from the 4th to the 8th grade.

Hughes tried to solve the problem by moving up from the feeder to the fed school - IS 301, where he immediately alienated teachers, including a TFA who refused to "help" the kids in the way Hughes wanted and was driven from the system while TFA supported the principal - naturally. TFA apparently believes in closing the achievement gap by hook or crook.

The big problem facing all the Regressive Ed Reformers is to figure out a way to get the same level of cheating in the 8th grade, where kids will blab more freely than younger kids.

If you want a reality check, have teams go into randomly selected schools in mid-September to give tests. Assume a summer loss drop but I bet it will go way beyond that.

The perfect example, as Green wrote:

"These kids didn't know how to write, they didn't know how to add," a math teacher at M.S. 201 who is leaving the school, Elizabeth Cano, said. "How could they be getting level 4?" Ms. Cano said the discrepancy would be clearest when the teachers gave pre-tests in the first week of school. "They used to all get a level 1," she said.


  1. Re: Article on Cheating In Schools

    As I taught for 37 years in New York City schools, and on every level, I probably am in as good a position as any educator to offer an insider's perspective on "cheating". (I was also honored personally in New York City Hall by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as "Teacher of the Year"- if that fact lends any additional credibility to the following eyewitness testimony.)

    As plenty of information on this subject has already been written about and discussed, I see no point here in revisiting the gory and gruesome details with which we are all too familiar.

    Nevertheless may I submit one additional aspect to the subject of "cheating" which appears to have been overlooked and not discussed in sufficient detail.

    At the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, where I taught for 25years (I created America's first Medical Illustration program for intellectually gifted minority students), the topic of cheating was raised to an art of elegant simplicity.

    That said, I would venture to say that it was an "art form" for measuring student "achievement" that probably was not invented by anyone at my High School but rather the "order of the day" for all high schools in New York that were required to give State Regents examinations.

    One very hot day, a few Junes ago, before I was very unceremoniously removed from the school for becoming a Whistle-blower, I happened to enter a sixth floor room where State Science Regents exams were being "graded". The teachers were all sitting around large work areas and I noticed they all had in front of them, what appeared to be very detailed graphs printed on light blue paper.

    When I picked one up, on closer inspection I saw printed at the top of these immensely detailed numerical, line graph charts, the words: Guide for converting "raw" scores into final Regents grade.

    In essence the teacher, after grading each Science Regents, simply took the student's score, and by referring to the "Regents scoring guide" was instructed, according to the numerical conversion chart, how to take the student's "temporary raw score" and convert it to the student's "final Regents grade".

    Thus the concept of grading had been elevated to a new type of "art form" where by adding just one extra step, a small piece of additional work for the teacher that required no more than three seconds per exam, a grade of 55 became a 69 and where a grade as low as 47, was transformed, as if by some sleight of hand magic, into a passing grade of 65.

    It quickly dawned upon me, at the time, that this technique of perceiving a student's actual Regents score as simply representing a "raw score" that still had to be "converted to the Final Regents grade", was probably a technique being utilized throughout the entire one million student population of the entire New York City public school system.

    Perhaps this might even represent a technique for inflating Regents grades throughout the entire nation.

    The concept was actually quite ingenious in its elegant simplicity. Rather than engage in a surreptitious form of behind the scenes, closeted in the dead of night cheating, everything was made "Official", institutionalized, officially sanctioned and even required of the grading teacher where not to follow the grading instructions would have been perceived as an infraction, perhaps, God forbid and perish the thought, that most horrendous and unforgiveable of all Teacher crimes: INSUBORDINATION

    Will someone in the house please email Moses immediately of The Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shall 'convert' -Regents Grades, that is".

    Thus do we see and most clearly in fact witness, how a lesson torn from the page book of Human History repeats itself yet one more time again.

    Make an horrendous act of dishonesty, duplicity, (perhaps even criminality), "Officially" sanctioned, and suddenly all taint of wrongdoing is magicly removed. All perception of impropriety made to disappear, to vanish.

    It really must be submitted and entered into the Guiness Book of World Records as the most clever discovery in the history of raising nationwide levels of "Student Achievement". Even more impressive than a certain "Education Miracle" that was made to happen in Texas a few years ago.

    Witness the Dawn of the New Education Age, where a test grade is only a "raw score" until by sleight of hand and using a chart printed on the "blue sheet", a teacher can now "discover" his/her student's "true" grade, and thus level of achievement, for any given examination subject.

    Next time you are stopped for speeding, not to worry. Simply take out from your wallet, a small piece of blue paper and explain to the arresting officer that before he can issue you a speeding ticket, he must first refer to the "blue sheet"- this time however converting numbers lower rather than higher.

    Is it not enough to make the Angels weep.

    David Pakter

  2. Some of the kids at my school told a TFA that the kids were texting one of his students the answers to the 8th grade multiple choice part of the state math exam. When we asked if we could go and see the test booklet for this one kid who got a 3, but is reading on a 3rd grade level we received dagger eyes . We were promptly told to as Tony Soprano would say ,"forget bout it!"


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