Blog: The Educated Reporter

CNN’s New Ed Blog, Rick Perry’s Brain Freeze and the Penn State Scandal

For the most part, when we talk about teacher evaluations, it’s in the abstract. We debate methodologies and models, and question issues of fairness and equity. the L.A. Times story is a good reminder that we’re also talking about human beings.

The Los Angeles Times has a story reporting fears that the emphasis on student test scores will make some teachers more likely to cheat. That’s apparently not a revolutionary point of view. I had a chance to chat with Robert Schaeffer, public education director for Fair Test — an advocacy group that pushes for appropriate use of standardized tests – about some of these issues.

The “explosion of test cheating reports” were unavoidable in the wake of NCLB’s stringent demands for student achievement data, Schaeffer says. Schaeffer quoted Campbell’s Law: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” If nothing else, Schaeffer says, the recent cheating scandals “have again demonstrated that overreliance on standardized test scores is a flawed strategy for creating lasting educational reform.”

The type of cheating the L.A. Times’ story is talking about – individual teachers taking actoin to save their own jobs — is a far cry from the kind of high-level, orchestrated collusion that’s alleged in places like Atlanta. But there’s little doubt that the pressure is higher than ever. I’ll be at the University of Chicago tomorrow for an EWA seminar on teacher evaluations – we’re bringing together researchers, educators (including classroom teachers), union leaders and policymakers to talk about this important and contentious topic. I look forward to sharing some of the discussion with you next week.