According to a post yesterday from PBS journalist John Merrow’s blog Learning Matters: ”Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC.” His meticulous article (including over 30 footnotes) details the revelation of a confidential memo by one of Rhee’s own consultants that indicated widespread cheating was going on by educators in the district who were erasing wrong answers on students’ tests and putting in right answers. While Rhee did conduct limited investigations into the matter in the late 2000’s, she did not admit the possibility of teacher erasures and that the cheating scandal was far more widespread.
This is serious business, coming as it does from the one educator who has placed the most emphasis on standardized test scores and ”data-based decision making” (e.g. not using common sense or experience to drive educational policy, but purely and simply: numbers). She rewarded educators in her district who got the highest test scores, and fired teachers who had the lowest test scores in their classrooms. In such a tense climate, is it any wonder that teachers and administrators would resort to cheating?
We need to take a good long hard look at this new revelation. Taken along with the recent Atlanta public schools cheating scandal, which has resulted in indictments of over thirty educators in that district, including its superintendent, I believe these events are only the tip of the iceberg and are a direct result of our nation’s overemphasis on standardized testing. I hope that parents, educators, and politicians, will look at these cheating scandals, and at the sheer downside of using standardized testing (see my blog post ”Fifteen Reasons Standardized Tests are Worthless”) and begin to advocate for more sensible and humane ways to assess learning progress in our schools.