Cafe Steph
Do you think there's too much pressure on school testing?
April 2, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Largest School Test-Cheating Scandal in History Failed Our Kids the Most

by Adriana Velez 

pencilsDoes anyone else feel like all that relentless testing we make our kids do isn't making them any smarter or better educated? If you don't feel that way now, the latest testing scandal might change your mind. A whopping 35 schools are accused of tampering with test scores in Atlanta, Georgia. It's the biggest school cheating scandal in U.S. history. The adults sold out the kids.

Back in 2008, two reporters for the Atlanta Journal Constitution thought an elementary school's amazing test scores sounded too good to be true. So they started investigating ... and the scandal grew larger and larger, involving teachers, administrators, and even politicians. Under insane pressure, adults in charge of educating children allegedly tampered with test papers and then lied to cover it all up.

The investigation led to a grand jury indictment that starts at the top: Reportedly, Superintendent Beverly Hall pressured principals, who in turn pressured teachers. Hall ended up collecting $580,000 in performance bonuses and was named "Superintendent of the Year" thanks to the amazing progress students seemed to be making on test scores. But really, what she did was "created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education."

And that's the worst part of this scandal -- it hurt the kids. Instead of focusing on helping kids learn, educators were gaming the tests. And the tests failed to do what they were designed to do: Testing is supposed to reveal how well kids are learning.

If test scores are low, that could mean a school needs help. It could be more resources, or new teachers, or a different curriculum. But if you're tampering with test scores, you'll just hide failing or struggling schools. Cheating totally defeats the purpose!

I think what this scandal reveals is how much it's thrown our priorities out of whack. We've put too much pressure on kids and teachers to show improvement and perform well on paper. And in the end, I'm not convinced kids are getting a better education. I hope this scandal rocks the educators and parents so hard that we all start demanding change. Stop with the insane testing pressure and re-think all those rewards. It's time to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better way to assess student competency.

Do you think there's too much pressure on school testing?

Replies

  • happy2bmom25
    April 4, 2013 at 6:31 PM


    Just curious, how old are your kids, and do they plan on going to college? will they take an act or sat for that? How will you know if they are prepared for those tests?

    Do you create your own curriculum, or do you follow a prepared curriculum?

    I am very curious, I would very much love to homeschool!!

    Quoting JCB911:

    It depends on the state.  In my state they luckily do not have to be tested.  Some parents may choose to have a standadized test done just to see where their kid is at.   I'm opposed to testing homeschoolers since it would contridict parents have control over their children's education if they had to "teach to the test" anyway.    For me, I don't need a test, I know what my kids know - I don't feel the need to prove it to anyone.

    Quoting Kimberlynn:

    This might be a stupid question, but if a child is homeschooled, does he or she have to take this test or something similar?




  • Kmary
    by Kmary
    April 4, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    While I disagree to some degree with many of your points, the one that sticks out the most is that other countries are now more inclusive in their schooling.  I'm unsure where you obtained that infomation, but it does not even begin to resemble the truth.  They may be more inclusive in the sense that a student with dyslexia is now allowed to attend the same school as typical students (whereas they used to literally attend their own schools) , but they still do not participate in the exams that are compared to US exams.  This is a HUGE factor in determining "rank." 

    And that doesn't even begin to analyze how topics are taught.  For example, Asian countries are known for their high math scores.  But in the Asian model, students typically cover a small number of topics and learn them inside and out, backwards and forwards.  The American model is made to hit more lightly on far more topics.  In  a peer reviewed education journal I remember reading recently that Asian students might cover, say, 5 math topics a year where their American counterparts cover 30 or more.  I don't know which is the "right" or "wrong" way, but I do know that this information makes comparing the two scores a completely ludicrous proposition.  It's not even apples and oranges--it's like comparing apples to steak! 


    Quoting happy2bmom25:


    1.  I beg to differ about being behind other countries education wise.  I live in a neighborhood where many of the men are engineers and have been imported here to the US.  Why don't we have our own engineers if we are not lagging behind? Do you believe that Americans just don't like those professions?

    Not only are we importing people with math and science degrees, but they can only stay for a few years because they don't want their children to fall behind their peers in theri home countries.

    I have also read that the testing is now all inclusive for everyone. Other countries are no longer leaving some scores out, or not testing.

    2.  Do you really believe that kids dropped out of school because they had to take a test? That doesn't really make sense.

    3. When I think of standardized testing I think of math first. If one can multiply then they should be able to do so on a test. If multiplication is the curriculum, then the teacher should teach it, the child should learn it and they should be able to prove competency by taking a test.  I do not understand all of the talk about teaching to a test. Honestly, if a child needs to know geometry, it should be taught and tested. Why is that a problem? Does it test intellect? No, but it does measure what the child has or has not learned.

    I used to be an analytical chemist and our clients often tested us. Proving competency is not something that ends in school. 

    Ultimately, I want the best for my kids.  My oldest is in the third grade, and I already fear that if I do not intervene then some career paths will not be options for him, and we live in a "great" district.  Third grade is too soon to be closing doors on the future, and if we don't have high expectations we may fail our children.




    Quoting Kmary:

    There is so much wrong with standardized testing that I don't even know where to begin and am not sure I have the time or energy to even begin to talk about it all.  But here are a few things:

    1.  Contrary to what the media keeps feeding us, the US is NOT behind all other countries academically.  If we removed stats for children with learning disabilities or who receive any sort of extra help or special educaiton services (the way EVERY OTHER COUNTRY DOES) we would be at or near the top in every single subject.  That is just plain fact.   The philosphy of the American education system is one of inclusion and as such, is quite distinct from the way every other country runs their schooling.  Also, the countries with the longest school days and highest academic outcomes also have the highest levels of teen suicide of anywhere on the planet.  There is a cost associated with all that rigorous curriculum and too many hours with their butts in their seats preparing for an exam.

    2.  Texas was the first state to implement large encompassing standardized testing.  Their high school dropout rate immediately surged.  I'm sure I need not explain why a place filled with high school dropouts is not a good place to be.

    3.  Standardized tests assess one thing and one thing only:  a student's ability to take a test (aka follow directions basically).  They can not assess curriculum, a teacher's teaching ability, a student's intellect, the appropriateness of the material covered, critical thinking skills, creativity and on and on. 

    I fear for our future filled with a generation of people who can regurgitate iinformation and follow basic directions, but can't even begin to analyze or think critically about said information.





  • happy2bmom25
    April 4, 2013 at 7:00 PM


    I read an article a few years ago, I am sure I can't find it now that the reporting once was skewed but now is even.  So, I don't know for sure, there are a lot of opinions out there.

    I still feel there has to be some way to evaluate curriculum, teacher and student performance.

    If not standardized testing, then what?

    I love the asian math!I love that it is a part of the new common core standards...hopefully it is more asian style and less americana style!  The Asian math is based off of concepts from the first century...and it is still right, and it still works!

    My kids will be doing singapore math over the summer. Most of my neighbors are in KUMON. I think it is sad that we pay such high taxes and then have to pay $100 a month for math too! Our Japenese neighbors have Japanese school on Saturdays and they get math there too!

    In my world we are lagging behind in math, and science.

    Quoting Kmary:

    While I disagree to some degree with many of your points, the one that sticks out the most is that other countries are now more inclusive in their schooling.  I'm unsure where you obtained that infomation, but it does not even begin to resemble the truth.  They may be more inclusive in the sense that a student with dyslexia is now allowed to attend the same school as typical students (whereas they used to literally attend their own schools) , but they still do not participate in the exams that are compared to US exams.  This is a HUGE factor in determining "rank." 

    And that doesn't even begin to analyze how topics are taught.  For example, Asian countries are known for their high math scores.  But in the Asian model, students typically cover a small number of topics and learn them inside and out, backwards and forwards.  The American model is made to hit more lightly on far more topics.  In  a peer reviewed education journal I remember reading recently that Asian students might cover, say, 5 math topics a year where their American counterparts cover 30 or more.  I don't know which is the "right" or "wrong" way, but I do know that this information makes comparing the two scores a completely ludicrous proposition.  It's not even apples and oranges--it's like comparing apples to steak! 


    Quoting happy2bmom25:


    1.  I beg to differ about being behind other countries education wise.  I live in a neighborhood where many of the men are engineers and have been imported here to the US.  Why don't we have our own engineers if we are not lagging behind? Do you believe that Americans just don't like those professions?

    Not only are we importing people with math and science degrees, but they can only stay for a few years because they don't want their children to fall behind their peers in theri home countries.

    I have also read that the testing is now all inclusive for everyone. Other countries are no longer leaving some scores out, or not testing.

    2.  Do you really believe that kids dropped out of school because they had to take a test? That doesn't really make sense.

    3. When I think of standardized testing I think of math first. If one can multiply then they should be able to do so on a test. If multiplication is the curriculum, then the teacher should teach it, the child should learn it and they should be able to prove competency by taking a test.  I do not understand all of the talk about teaching to a test. Honestly, if a child needs to know geometry, it should be taught and tested. Why is that a problem? Does it test intellect? No, but it does measure what the child has or has not learned.

    I used to be an analytical chemist and our clients often tested us. Proving competency is not something that ends in school. 

    Ultimately, I want the best for my kids.  My oldest is in the third grade, and I already fear that if I do not intervene then some career paths will not be options for him, and we live in a "great" district.  Third grade is too soon to be closing doors on the future, and if we don't have high expectations we may fail our children.




    Quoting Kmary:

    There is so much wrong with standardized testing that I don't even know where to begin and am not sure I have the time or energy to even begin to talk about it all.  But here are a few things:

    1.  Contrary to what the media keeps feeding us, the US is NOT behind all other countries academically.  If we removed stats for children with learning disabilities or who receive any sort of extra help or special educaiton services (the way EVERY OTHER COUNTRY DOES) we would be at or near the top in every single subject.  That is just plain fact.   The philosphy of the American education system is one of inclusion and as such, is quite distinct from the way every other country runs their schooling.  Also, the countries with the longest school days and highest academic outcomes also have the highest levels of teen suicide of anywhere on the planet.  There is a cost associated with all that rigorous curriculum and too many hours with their butts in their seats preparing for an exam.

    2.  Texas was the first state to implement large encompassing standardized testing.  Their high school dropout rate immediately surged.  I'm sure I need not explain why a place filled with high school dropouts is not a good place to be.

    3.  Standardized tests assess one thing and one thing only:  a student's ability to take a test (aka follow directions basically).  They can not assess curriculum, a teacher's teaching ability, a student's intellect, the appropriateness of the material covered, critical thinking skills, creativity and on and on. 

    I fear for our future filled with a generation of people who can regurgitate iinformation and follow basic directions, but can't even begin to analyze or think critically about said information.







  • JCB911
    by JCB911
    April 4, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    My kids are little yet, just 3 and 5.  So really it's just my 5 y/o DS homeschooling. He has a Sept brithday so he'd just miss the cutoff for Kindergarten this past year. however, at home he's easily doing 1st grade work, and is even starting to mulitply.

    Even though I have my Masters and my DH his Bachelors we both kinda think college is just one big expensive farce. I'd love for my kids to be able to make their way without it.  However, it's a choice when we get to that point.  Yes they will most likely have to take and ACT for that - and we'll do the necessary prerp-work when the time comes.  But seeing as that's over a decade away I'm not too worried about it.  Colleges also seem to be pro-homeschooling, so getting in isn't something I'm too concerned with. They see homeschoolers as kids who know how to teach themselves, are self-motivated, more mature etc.

    For this year, which I consider my "practice year" b/c technically he's just preschool age - we're doing our own thing in regards to curriculum.  He has a huge 1st grade workbook which has reading and math-but he finished that in Feburary.  He's completed a few other shorter math workbooks as well. For the other subjects we go to the library a lot, read a bunch, watch videos on the internet, do experiments etc.  I think down the road I'll consider a curriculum, but not yet.

    For this age/stage a test would be silly  - if anything he probably knows way more than I give him credit for.  The multiplying came out of nowhere. I know what we've discussed, I know what he knows and what we'll have to review again.  Maybe we'd do some type of testing down the road, but I don't see it as sensible anytime soon - maybe middle school grades? 

    There are many homeschool groups on CM, join one and ask away, HS'ers are pretty good at answering Q's. Your library should have lots of books on the topic and there are endless resources on the internet, blogs, free educational websites, even free curriculums.

    Good luck!

    Quoting happy2bmom25:


    Just curious, how old are your kids, and do they plan on going to college? will they take an act or sat for that? How will you know if they are prepared for those tests?

    Do you create your own curriculum, or do you follow a prepared curriculum?

    I am very curious, I would very much love to homeschool!!

    Quoting JCB911:

    It depends on the state.  In my state they luckily do not have to be tested.  Some parents may choose to have a standadized test done just to see where their kid is at.   I'm opposed to testing homeschoolers since it would contridict parents have control over their children's education if they had to "teach to the test" anyway.    For me, I don't need a test, I know what my kids know - I don't feel the need to prove it to anyone.

    Quoting Kimberlynn:

    This might be a stupid question, but if a child is homeschooled, does he or she have to take this test or something similar?





  • purpleducky
    April 4, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    Yes yes YES!!! That is why I send my son to a Montessori charter school where there is no emphasis put on standardized testing. And actually I will be exempting my sons from the tests when they get to it. Standardized tests are useless anyways.

  • littlelamb303
    April 4, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    There is way too much testing today. They need to get rid of it.  Also, here in NY, children who are in special education have to take the tests as well, and they score very poorly on them because they are not at the same level as the other children are.  It is WRONG. They just need to GOOOOO

  • NWP
    by NWP
    April 4, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    I LOVE our Montessori charter school. My DD are flourishing there. The classes are split grade level so DD gets to study a grade level up and still be social with her own age group. I love the Montessori curriculum as well.

    They still have to take the required exams though:(

    Quoting purpleducky:

    Yes yes YES!!! That is why I send my son to a Montessori charter school where there is no emphasis put on standardized testing. And actually I will be exempting my sons from the tests when they get to it. Standardized tests are useless anyways.


  • NWP
    by NWP
    April 4, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    The part in red...This is the billion dollar question. Figure it out and you win!

    Quoting happy2bmom25:


    I read an article a few years ago, I am sure I can't find it now that the reporting once was skewed but now is even.  So, I don't know for sure, there are a lot of opinions out there.

    I still feel there has to be some way to evaluate curriculum, teacher and student performance.

    If not standardized testing, then what?

    I love the asian math!I love that it is a part of the new common core standards...hopefully it is more asian style and less americana style!  The Asian math is based off of concepts from the first century...and it is still right, and it still works!

    My kids will be doing singapore math over the summer. Most of my neighbors are in KUMON. I think it is sad that we pay such high taxes and then have to pay $100 a month for math too! Our Japenese neighbors have Japanese school on Saturdays and they get math there too!

    In my world we are lagging behind in math, and science.

    Quoting Kmary:

    While I disagree to some degree with many of your points, the one that sticks out the most is that other countries are now more inclusive in their schooling.  I'm unsure where you obtained that infomation, but it does not even begin to resemble the truth.  They may be more inclusive in the sense that a student with dyslexia is now allowed to attend the same school as typical students (whereas they used to literally attend their own schools) , but they still do not participate in the exams that are compared to US exams.  This is a HUGE factor in determining "rank." 

    And that doesn't even begin to analyze how topics are taught.  For example, Asian countries are known for their high math scores.  But in the Asian model, students typically cover a small number of topics and learn them inside and out, backwards and forwards.  The American model is made to hit more lightly on far more topics.  In  a peer reviewed education journal I remember reading recently that Asian students might cover, say, 5 math topics a year where their American counterparts cover 30 or more.  I don't know which is the "right" or "wrong" way, but I do know that this information makes comparing the two scores a completely ludicrous proposition.  It's not even apples and oranges--it's like comparing apples to steak! 


    Quoting happy2bmom25:


    1.  I beg to differ about being behind other countries education wise.  I live in a neighborhood where many of the men are engineers and have been imported here to the US.  Why don't we have our own engineers if we are not lagging behind? Do you believe that Americans just don't like those professions?

    Not only are we importing people with math and science degrees, but they can only stay for a few years because they don't want their children to fall behind their peers in theri home countries.

    I have also read that the testing is now all inclusive for everyone. Other countries are no longer leaving some scores out, or not testing.

    2.  Do you really believe that kids dropped out of school because they had to take a test? That doesn't really make sense.

    3. When I think of standardized testing I think of math first. If one can multiply then they should be able to do so on a test. If multiplication is the curriculum, then the teacher should teach it, the child should learn it and they should be able to prove competency by taking a test.  I do not understand all of the talk about teaching to a test. Honestly, if a child needs to know geometry, it should be taught and tested. Why is that a problem? Does it test intellect? No, but it does measure what the child has or has not learned.

    I used to be an analytical chemist and our clients often tested us. Proving competency is not something that ends in school. 

    Ultimately, I want the best for my kids.  My oldest is in the third grade, and I already fear that if I do not intervene then some career paths will not be options for him, and we live in a "great" district.  Third grade is too soon to be closing doors on the future, and if we don't have high expectations we may fail our children.




    Quoting Kmary:

    There is so much wrong with standardized testing that I don't even know where to begin and am not sure I have the time or energy to even begin to talk about it all.  But here are a few things:

    1.  Contrary to what the media keeps feeding us, the US is NOT behind all other countries academically.  If we removed stats for children with learning disabilities or who receive any sort of extra help or special educaiton services (the way EVERY OTHER COUNTRY DOES) we would be at or near the top in every single subject.  That is just plain fact.   The philosphy of the American education system is one of inclusion and as such, is quite distinct from the way every other country runs their schooling.  Also, the countries with the longest school days and highest academic outcomes also have the highest levels of teen suicide of anywhere on the planet.  There is a cost associated with all that rigorous curriculum and too many hours with their butts in their seats preparing for an exam.

    2.  Texas was the first state to implement large encompassing standardized testing.  Their high school dropout rate immediately surged.  I'm sure I need not explain why a place filled with high school dropouts is not a good place to be.

    3.  Standardized tests assess one thing and one thing only:  a student's ability to take a test (aka follow directions basically).  They can not assess curriculum, a teacher's teaching ability, a student's intellect, the appropriateness of the material covered, critical thinking skills, creativity and on and on. 

    I fear for our future filled with a generation of people who can regurgitate iinformation and follow basic directions, but can't even begin to analyze or think critically about said information.








  • stormcris
    April 4, 2013 at 10:40 PM
    Knowing that it was far more than just those schools in Atlanta and several in the state did this, knowing that the test was completely messed up and that things on that test were not part of what was supposed to be covered, and knowing that they spend half of the school year teaching children how to test rather than teaching in many districts, I would say it is by far to highly weighed. Someone brought up this was to access the teachers; no it is not there are other tests for that. Someone brought up that it was to access how a student is growing; no they have other tests for that. We have a lot of testing done in this state. This is merely the test that determines how much funding a school gets. Sometimes it is the pass or fail for the student but that is left up to the district as they can go to the portfolio rather than use this test score.
  • Annettey19
    April 5, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    For sure. I think all the countries with the highest school scores (Finland comes to mind) don't focus on standardized tests at all, and really work with the student.