Is Stardardized Testing Pressure Pushing Teachers to Cheat?

Three dozen teachers in the state of California accused this year of cheating, lesser misconduct or mistakes on standardized achievement tests. And in the worst alleged cases, teachers are accused of changing incorrect responses or filling in missing ones after students returned answer booklets, writes Howard Blume at the LA Times.

Many of the accused teachers have denied doing anything wrong. But documents and interviews suggest that the idea of cheating has become plausible in a climate of an increasing focus on test scores, creating an atmosphere of intimidation.

"One teacher has personally confided in me that if her job was on the line, she indeed would cheat to get the higher test scores," one Los Angeles-area instructor said.

"The testing procedures haven't been secure over the past 10-plus years. Some of the ‘most effective' teachers could be simply the ‘most cunning.' "

Cheating has been uncovered across the country as cases of cheating has been uncovered in Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. as test results the key factor in teacher evaluations. Investigators there found cheating at 44 of the 56 schools they examined and identified 178 people thought to be involved.

For the vast majority of teachers, however, cheating remains unthinkable.

"I can't for the life of me understand why a teacher would risk their job over this stuff," said Tina Andres, a middle school math teacher in Orange County.

But, she added: "Of course, many of them probably feel that they could lose their job if they don't."

It's a bind that teachers struggle with in the face of declining resources and students who often lack support and resources from home.

"The current system sets it up so students and teachers must succeed on a multiple-choice test, but it does not provide the resources to do so effectively," said one administrator who did not want to be identified.

"Both the system and the cheaters are wrong."

But this logic doesn't seem consistent for everyone. As Dave at says:

"If testing is to blame for cheating teachers and administrators, then the tax code is to blame for tax cheats and the speed limit is to blame for speeders."

"The system is not to blame," he says. "The laws themselves are not to blame. The people who commit the illegal and/or unethical acts are to blame. It is just an excuse and a lame one at that."

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