Monday, September 28, 2009

Will the UFT Survey Principal and Teacher Cheating?

Philip Nobile asks this question and I would guess NO WAY. The UFT is very happy with inflated grades – see all their praise for Bloomberg on how wonderful he has made the schools. So the chance they would put their foot in this water is nil.

A lot of this stuff also went on in the 70's, 80's and 90's, so let's not put all the blame for test mania on BloomKlein and NCLB.

I would say that many of the people I knew did some level of cheating (including me). I used to save old exams and collect vocabulary words and math examples and use these as Do Nows in future years. Some teachers cheated during the actual exam by looking over kids' shoulders and nudging them. Others did the erasing bit after the exams. Some teachers cheat because they don't want to lose favor with the principal, or lose that merit pay bonus (the exact reason for merit pay schemes is to encourage cheating) or because they feel it would be unfair to leave certain hard working kids left back due to BloomKlein idiotic promotional policies. A friend recently told me how teachers in her school used to sit one smart kid in the middle of struggling kids and just didn't notice when they looked at his/her paper.

One guy I worked with got caught through one of these eraser examinations and his class has to be retested but nothing happened to him (he was the principal's lackey at the time). She was thrilled with people who cheated and many of us suspected that when she and the AP locked themselves in the office with all the exams for a few hours after the test was over there was something funny going on.

Here is Philip's email:

Grade changing is an occupational hazard in public schools. Every teacher knows it goes on and, except for the occasional whistleblower, nobody does anything about it. Obviously, management and unions are averse to admitting that their members routinely tamper with test results. As Steven Levitt wrote in Freakonomics, “teacher cheating is rarely looked for, hardly ever detected, and just about never punished.”

No longer in Chicago

During the summer the Chicago Teachers Union collaborated with a Chicago Sun-Times in a cheating survey of 1200 teachers.,CST-NWS-grades30.article# The results published on August 29 should be no surprise to inner city educators. The Sun-Times disclosed that “Nearly a third of Chicago public high school teachers say they were pressured to change grades this past school year. One in five report they actually raised a grade under such prodding.”

The pressure came from several directions—parents, peers, and principals. Here are some interesting passages from the paper’s “Watchdog Report”:

The findings raise serious questions about whether some of the data used to judge Chicago public schools has been inflated, artificially manipulated -- or in some cases outright altered.

The responses pulled back the curtain on the stress many teachers feel every time they sit down to issue grades.

"I am giving grades. Kids aren't earning them," said math teacher Bonnie Kayser.

'It's in the culture'

Teachers reported pressure from principals, "upset'' parents and even other CPS employees who were parents of their students. They said the squeeze was put on them to pass failing students, to give ill students a break or to help athletes. Some felt prodded to goose up grades to help kids graduate, avoid summer school or get into an elite high school.

Such heat was twice as common among teachers in high schools, where the push is on to reduce failure rates. Several such teachers said they felt pressured to offer last-minute deals to kids so they wouldn't fail. Another said her school lowered its grading scale and "still we are pressured to change grades.''

"That's all this district cares about -- how many kids are failing. Not how many kids are learning,'' said Kayser, who taught math at Fenger Achievement Academy last year.

Kayser said she was urged to assign make-up work, offer extra credit and stop giving zeros for missed assignments -- even for students who blew off most work or skipped tests.

Other survey respondents said grade-inflation is simply built into the high-school system.

"It's in the culture of the schools,'' wrote one experienced high school teacher who raised numerous grades under pressure -- and said at least one was changed without his approval. "You can't completely be honest in grading students, otherwise the failure rate would be off the chart.''

According to a September 1 follow-up, Mayor Richard Daley is taking action:

“Of those pressured, more than half pinpointed principals, but Daley focused on teachers Tuesday instead. ‘First of all, you have to find out who all the teachers are [who] would do that. That's No. 1,’ Daley said. ‘Then, they're gonna go and get those teachers, investigate those teachers and say, 'Why would you cheat a student?' . . . It all starts with the teachers.’ CTU President Marilyn Stewart said in a written statement that teachers should be ‘commended for shedding light on this very serious issue,’ and any investigation should begin ‘with those putting pressure on the teachers. . . . The teachers are not the problem; they are the victims.’''

What about cheating in New York’s public schools? Except for a five-year-old story in the New York Post (“TEACHERS CHEAT: Inflating Regents scores to pass kids,” Jan. 26, 2004), I am unaware of any public discussion of the problem in our system. Last spring I surveyed Chapter Leaders at meetings in Brooklyn and Manhattan—24 of 27 replied that scrubbing (defined on the survey as illegal tampering with Regents scores) occurred at his or her school. A UFT rep once told me that I “hated” children when I endorsed zero tolerance for tampering.

Will the UFT duplicate the CTU’s intrepid self-examination with a survey of its own or continue its indifference to the undoubtedly tainted numbers propping up the Klein regime? President Michael Mulgrew has been asked, but so far he has declined to answer.

Philip Nobile

Rubber Room

Chapel St., Brooklyn

Time to Re-Test and Review

1 comment:

  1. The biggest cheating going on in NYC public schools is through the use of independent study classes, credit recovery packets, adminstrators with unilateral power to change grades unbeknownst to teachers and the assigning of up to two extra credits toward graduation based upon students getting an 85 or higher on a regents exam (5 regents with a score of 85 or higher can produce ten extra credits toward graduation).


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.