So far this week, I heard Arne Duncan speak, paid a brief visit to a middle school defying the odds, sat down with a former Kenyan education minister and read several new studies on teacher quality.
But it was a 30 minute conversation with a teacher that sticks with me the most.
She told me that she’s concerned with cheating on the CRCT because she has seen firsthand a student who failed the reading test and then managed to score at the exceeds level in the summer retake.
Yet, when the child arrived in her classroom in the fall, he was unable to read. Her principal said the child may have just made “lucky” guesses on the retake. The teacher said colleagues in other counties have experienced the same thing. She said it does not serve the child to misrepresent his reading abilities and makes it harder for a teacher to know what the child needs.
I want to bring up another cheating issue that I have seen. It’s become common for schools to post student work on bulletin boards. I often read the writing samples, some of which have the standards attached showing that the teacher rated the writer as “advanced” in all categories.
Here’s my problem: There is no way that a child wrote some of the samples I’ve seen on display. It wouldn’t matter if the child attended the highest achieving district in the state; the writing is well beyond a child’s capability and sounds like it came off the front page of The New York Times. It does not read like an essay by a child, but a news story by a trained journalist.
(I know that some of you doubt there are sophisticated skills associated with what journalists do, but there are and those skills are easy to recognize in writing samples. The heart of explanatory journalism is condensing complex ideas. It’s creating comparisons to put an issue in context. It’s hard to do well.)
In one instance, I copied a sentence from a bulletin board writing sample on Swine flu and ran it through our archives to confirm that it came out of an AJC story.
Here’s a true story. In a local student essay contest a few years ago, the judges went to the winner to ask one final time if any of the material was plagiarized before awarding the prize . The girl admitted some of her story was copied. So, the judges went to their second choice. And that kid also said he lifted some of what he wrote. They had to go to the third place winner before they could award the prize.
Is cheating a way of life now?