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Timothy D. Slekar Headshot

It's Not Cheating. It's Sabotage.

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Our backs are now against the wall.
Listen all y'all, it's a sabotage.
-Beastie Boys

After thinking about my last post where I imagined educators consciously "cheating" on state tests as a form of protest, I now believe that teachers and administrators must actively engage in a form of civil disobedience. "Irregular erasure patterns" -- it's that simple.

In a warped sense, educators in Atlanta, Philadelphia, D.C. and all the other places where testing "improprieties" took place should be thanked. Although these educators engaged in unethical behavior, they revealed the one thing education reformers fear most -- the system being used to dismantle public schools has an Achilles' heel.

What's the one thing the market-based reformers hold sacred? What's the one thing the entire high-stakes testing regime can't live without? Data! The destructive system (high stakes testing) must collect reliable and "objective" data. Data is the gasoline that powers the engine of reform. Without it the entire system shuts down. Why do you think there is so much "disbelief" at cheating on state exams? Why are so many education officials like Secretary Duncan "shocked?"

It has nothing to do with being surprised that it was happening. Cheating and gaming the system were guaranteed outcomes of this pernicious system -- Campbell's Law.

They're upset because their plan for dismantling the entire system of public education is totally reliant on the appearance of "objective" measures. The system that supposedly informs taxpayers about the quality of their local schools needs "objective data" -- test scores. Without these "objective " test scores the list of draconian sanctions mandated by reformers cannot be applied to community-based public school systems. Once the data is tainted, it can't be used. It's that simple.

Teachers and administrators have the ability destroy the entire high stakes testing, market-based, standards-driven system.

How can they do this?

First, all teachers and administrators must go to http://www.change.org/petitions/a-declaration-of-professional-conscience-for-teachers and sign Goodman's (1990) Declaration of Professional Conscience for Teachers!

Last, teachers and administrators must uphold all the sentiments of the Declaration. That's it. Too simple? Need a little more detail? Specifically teachers and administrators must

accept the responsibility of evaluating our pupils' growth. We will make no long- or short-range decisions that affect the future education of our pupils on the basis of a single examination no matter what the legal status of the examination.

In other words, teachers and administrators can no longer be part of a system that uses high stakes tests. If they work in systems that employ the use of high stakes tests then they must engage in acts that thwart the use of single measures. Teachers and administrators must take part in a systematic and planned operation of sabotage.

It is time to end the nightmare. How much more harm has to be done? How many more lives have to be ruined? Our public schools can no longer be sites for unethical testing and experimentation on young minds. Teachers and administrators can no longer take inhumane orders. Teachers and administrators must thwart the market driven, high stakes testing regime.

"It is certainly foolhardy and idealistic. But what if the power to test and measure was stripped away?" Shaun Johnson

Teachers and administrators engaging in a conscious act of sabotage -- "irregular erasure patterns" -- does this push the boundaries of ethical behavior beyond our comfort level?