Since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001 with bipartisan support, public schools have been faced with the false choice between performing well on standardized tests or losing funding.
This pressure has led to some deception from schools in their progress reports to the federal government — we’ve seen everything from under-reporting violence to avoid being labeled as a “persistently dangerous” school, to misrepresenting the real drop-out rate, to excluding low-performing students from standardized tests, to physically changing students’ test answers used to measure school progress.
This last strategy was found to be employed in at least 44 Atlanta schools.
In fact, 178 school principals and teachers were accused of some level of involvement in physically changing incorrect answers on their student’s standardized tests.
Fifty-six schools were investigated, 44 of them — almost 80 percent — were found to be cheating, according to the CBS News report. And the evidence seems to be piling up: 82 out of the 178 educators investigated have confessed to cheating.
Meanwhile former superintendent Beverly Hall, named Superintendent of the Year in 2009, is accused of being aware of the cheating. According to the Associated Press, official government reports show Hall ignored reports of cheating. Hall is denying the accusations.
A 2005 article by the Reason Foundation’s Lisa Snell points to a trend in deception and misrepresentation to meet No Child Left Behind Standards. Despite 56 criminal charges including sexual offenses, assault with a deadly weapon, robberies and batteries in the 2003-2004 school year, Locke High School in Los Angeles was not labeled a “persistently violent” school.
Wesley Elementary School in Houston won several awards and was featured on Oprah for “defying the odds.” In 2004, the Dallas Morning News found that its 5th graders, who scored in the top 10 percent while at Wesley, scored in the bottom 10 percent the following year as 6th graders at a new school.
In 2003, the New York Times reported that Houston schools were misrepresenting and omitting drop-outs by listing them as transfers, among other strategies. The Houston School District found that more than half of the 5,500 students who left in the 2000-01 school year should have been declared dropouts.
In 2004, Oak Ridge High School in Orlando boosted its test scores by eliminating 126 low-performing students from its attendance roles.
And these are just some examples of the illicit actions taken by schools who fear being reprimanded by No Child Left Behind. But it is uncertain that reforms could change this trend.
In 2010, the Obama administration issued a “Blueprint for Reform” which proposed changes to No Child Left Behind. The Obama plan would retain the requirement for annual reading and math tests, the New York Times reports. But the focus of testing would shift from the number of students who are proficient to each student’s academic growth.
The reform would also eliminate the provision that schools failing to meet testing requirements for two consecutive years must provide busing to other schools for students wishing to transfer. This clause is often cited as the reason many schools cheat.
As for the Atlanta schools, educators could face criminal charges.
According to CBS News, tampering with state examinations is a felony in Georgia and educators found guilty could face up to 10 years in prison. Wouldn’t it just be easier to educate the kids?!