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Timothy D. Slekar Headshot

Cheating or Protecting? Depends

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Really? Are we truly surprised that educators actually "cheated" on high stakes standardized tests? Why? What harm was caused? Well according to a report by Christina Samuels in Education Week, "The result was inflated test scores that led to thousands of children being denied the remedial education they were entitled to, state officials said Tuesday. "

Oh now I get it. This "cheating" resulted in children not getting what they deserve. Well what exactly do these or did these children deserve? If the answer is a "remedial education" that is standardized (sanitized), did the children really lose out? Who really lost?

From my perspective, the biggest losers are market-based reformers. They tried to use high stakes tests as a stick in order to take control of the Atlanta system of public education. Make no mistakes, reformers are responsible for creating a climate of fear, and this climate of fear drove normally ethical people to behave unethically. However, now their sacred data is tainted! They can't use it to close down schools or remove ineffective teachers and administrators for failing to meet some arbitrary target that may or may not be an indicator of learning. Of course teachers and administrators are going to lose their jobs for "cheating", but should they? What if some of these professionals actually engaged in a form of civil disobedience -- sabotage?

I know this sounds like I'm excusing bad behavior (maybe I am) but what if the behavior really saved children from a standardized (sanitized), "remedial" education and a cruel accountability system -- a system that was designed to dismantle our public schools? What if some of these "cheaters" made a conscious choice to resist a system of oppression that was denying children an education rich with experiences in the humanities, arts, and sciences?

I've always wondered what would happen if teachers were required to take a form of the Hippocratic Oath--something simple like, "I will do no harm." If the teachers and administrators in Atlanta (and all the other places "cheating") had sworn to "do no harm," would their actions be so shocking?

I ask these rhetorical questions because they need to be answered. After almost 10 years of No Child left Behind and 30 + years of standards based reform, we (people committed to the welfare of children and supporters of a fully funded public school system) need to be heard. Children, families, communities and schools are being harmed. High stakes testing and accountability-based reforms undermine our democracy and do not work. In fact the National Academy of Sciences just concluded that the high stakes reform movement has actually hindered real learning. Therefore, if educators made a conscious decision to resist, distort, and/or derail this system of injustice, shouldn't they be held up as role models--professionals that decided that they must disobey an inhumane order and "do no harm?"

As an educator and a especially as a parent, it is my hope that all teachers and administrators would have the courage to consciously stop this madness and protect my children from our current system of educational suffocation. If this is not madness then how do you explain sending half a billion dollars "to line the pockets of Pearson's stakeholders. That's 15,000 teacher salaries, sacrificed at the altar of standardized testing. $500,000,000 for a test." John Kuhn