New AJC investigation casts doubts on integrity of testing nationwide. Is there a whole lot of cheating going on?

testing (Medium)In the cheating hall of fame, Atlanta may stand out, but it may not stand alone.

Nearly 200 school districts across the country have such suspicious test score patterns that the odds of them occurring by chance are worse than 1 in 1,000.  And in 33 of those districts, the odds are worse than one in a million.

In a powerhouse investigation in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the investigative reporting team that uncovered test disparities in Atlanta Public Schools reveals the findings of a seven-month analysis of 1.6 million records from 70,000 public schools nationwide.

Here is a link that will get you to the entire package, but plan to spend some time as it has multiple elements.

The AJC used freedom of information laws to collect test scores from 49 states — 14,743 districts and 70,000 tests –  to look for the sort of patterns that signaled cheating.

Along with our own database reporters, the AJC consulted outside experts to assess our analysis. (Please pick up a Sunday AJC as it will outline all the detailed work that went into this investigation and all the care to check and recheck the findings.)

To be clear, the new AJC national analysis doesn’t establish that cheating occurred. But it points to the same troubling  pattern later verified in Atlanta schools to be test tampering after a probe by an outraged Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The student performance rises and dips in many Atlanta schools turned out to be a seismograph of shame.

The findings also point to a universal truth: Hold people accountable to standards, benchmarks or quotas that they feel are unrelenting, unrealistic and unfair and some will cheat.

“We are putting way too much pressure on people to raise scores at a very large clip without holding them accountable for how they are doing it,” Daniel Koretz, a Harvard Graduate School of Education testing expert, told the AJC.

The AJC’s findings also raise questions about whether anyone knows yet how to succeed in schools with high concentrations of poor students; most of the districts with troubling test score swings were rural and urban districts steeped in poverty.

Some immediate questions come to mind as you read the in-depth investigation by AJC staffers Alan Judd, Heather Vogell, John Perry, M.B. Pell and Dayton Daily News database specialist Ken McCall.

Are we expecting too much of teachers instructing the toughest students?

By basing school evaluations on student test scores, are we using too narrow a lens to see what is truly happening in our schools, perhaps overlooking positive developments that are not reflected in a single score?

Are we escalating the pressure on educators by linking their reviews and salaries to student scores, creating even greater motivation to doctor test results?

As the story states:

“These findings are concerning,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an emailed statement after being briefed on the AJC’s analysis. He added: “states, districts, schools and testing companies should have sensible safeguards in place to ensure tests accurately reflect student learning.”

In nine districts , scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than 1 in a billion .

In Houston, for instance, test results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year, the analysis shows. When children moved to a new grade the next year, their scores plummeted — a finding that suggests the gains were not due to learning. {See response from Houston school chief here.}

Overall, 196 of the nation’s 3,125 largest school districts had enough suspect tests that the odds of the results occurring by chance alone were worse than 1 in 1,000. For 33 of those districts, the odds were worse than one in a million .

A few of the districts already face accusations of cheating. But in most, no one has challenged the scores in a broad, public way. The analysis shows that in 2010 alone, the grade-wide reading scores of 24,618 children nationwide — enough to populate a midsized school district — swung so improbably that the odds of it happening by chance were less than 1 in 10,000.

In Georgia, it fell to the governor’s investigators to prove cheating occurred. Led by two former top prosecutors, the Perdue investigation entailed 2,100 interviews and 800,000 documents and led to more than 80 confessions of cheating. State investigators accused a total of 38 principals with participating in test-tampering. Cheating was confirmed in 44 of 56 schools examined.

The findings toppled the much-heralded regime of Dr. Beverly Hall, and led to extensive upheaval in the leadership of the Atlanta schools.

The findings also sparked a national debate over whether schools teaching the least advantaged and most challenging students are being held to unattainable standards and whether test scores are a fair way to judge success.

The new AJC investigation is bound to reignite that debate.

Among the discoveries by the AJC team:

•Improbable scores were twice as likely to appear in charter schools as regular schools. Charters, which receive public money, can face intense pressure as supposed laboratories of innovation that, in theory, live or die by their academic performance.

•The newspaper found changes in test scores that were statistically improbable in nearly 20 cities, with swings in scores that were virtually impossible in about a half dozen. Human intervention is the most likely explanation  In some cities, we found so many dramatic shifts in scores that the odds of that happening by chance are one in 10 billion.

•In some cities, the results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year. The next year, when children moved to a new grade, their scores plummeted.

•Though high-poverty city schools were more likely to have suspicious tests, improbable scores also showed up in an exclusive public school for the gifted on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And they appeared in a rural district roughly 70 miles south of Chicago with one school, dirt roads and a women’s prison.

•The findings call into question the approach that dominated federal education policy over the past decade: Set a continuously rising bar and leave schools and districts essentially alone to figure out how to reach it.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

303 comments Add your comment


March 26th, 2012
10:37 am

When the APS story broke a few years ago I was on a return flight from Portland, OR sitting next to a gentleman who worked for one of the large testing companies. When discussing cheating he said if I thought Atlanta was the only one cheating then I was a fool. Even then the companies selling these tests were fully aware of rampant cheating. Someone should have a conversation with the testing companies as well.


March 26th, 2012
10:40 am

Poor research — 2011 numbers have been out for months — your name fits.

Old Physics Teacher

March 26th, 2012
11:04 am

HAHAHAHAHAHA The irony just grows and grows. The science teachers have been trying to tell everyone since the GHSGTs were conceived the goals were ill-conceived due to the laws of statistics. Everyone ignored us because they couldn’t see past the end of their noses. We predicted this in the 1990’s. When everyone MUST pass a test – and EVERYONE MUST PASS THE TEST – then the test must be made unrealistically easy , e.g., (Q) What is the sum of 2 + 2? (ANS) a. 4; b. 4; c. 5; d. 4! Or, if the test accurately measures the content taught, the “cut score” must be set at the lowest IQ taught. OR THE EXAMINERS MUST CHEAT.

I’m shocked, SHOCKED to find cheating has gone on! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

The irony continues: The journalist who wrote the article is proud the ajc used statistics to PROVE the laws of statistics are valid and then used the word CLAIMED when a teacher rep did the same thing. HAHAHAHAHAHA

AJC is NOT Credible

March 26th, 2012
11:06 am

Why wasn’t Gwinnett Schools listed…they had high flags…higher than Mobile, Al please explain Maureen.


March 26th, 2012
11:25 am

All the bashing of NCLB because of cheating. What are the actual results of the students? I know that the kids I see in part-time or entry level service jobs are much better at math, speaking and dealing with customers than they were 20 or 30 years ago. You don’t have to figure out the change for the cashiers anymore.

What I see in the workplace is that the students in the lower level jobs are improving in their skills. I see that school districts are paying more attention to all children instead of just ignoring certain groups. The math they are teaching in schools is several years ahead of what we did when I was in school.

NCLB has made sure failing groups aren’t ignored. Its put accountability in the system and measurement. Obviously that measurement process has lots of flaws. But a system that doesn’t measure at all can’t be rationally improved.

NCLB has put some competition in schools. Charter schools do the same thing. What has been clearly proven about human behavior is that competition improves performance. Failure motivates. Success breeds complacency. Many in educational leadership are very hostile to competition and seem to have no grasp of how to deal with it other than cheating so that everyone feels good.


March 26th, 2012
11:42 am

Why are the same disgruntled teachers the only ones who respond to this site? The same comments are recycled regardless of the article’s content. hmmmmmmmmm

Old Physics Teacher

March 26th, 2012
11:59 am


Anecdotal evidence is always suspect. I’ll see your’s and raise you mine. I started teaching 20 years ago. I’ve kept all my old tests, and I modify them year to year so that siblings can’t pass along their tests to “cheat.” I teach the same content, but the specific questions change. The grades for the lowest kids have gone up. Instead of making 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. They now make 70’s because the standards are so low. The middle kids now also make in the 70’s – just barely higher. The high kids??? Well… actually their test scores have stayed the same, BUT that’s because the standards -and cut scores – are so low. For a lark, I gave a test from my 1995 year covering the same material. Everybody flunked. I gave my advanced class the same test. They barely passed with 70’s.

In the 90’s I had students take my tests without calculators. Now I’m asked every day (by mid-kids) if i have a calculator for the students to use. They “forgot” to bring their’s. They then complain that my calculator is different than their’s, and they want me to teach them how to use mine. They then screw up the math because they don’t KNOW the order of operations.

All these standardized test have done is force teachers to “teach to the test.” That’s actually bad – not good. So that we HONEST teachers don’t get in trouble, we cover the basics in class over and over. Material that students were EXPECTED to do at home is now done in class because it is the TEACHER’S RESPONSIBILITY for the student’s learning. As it’s my responsibility, I make sure EVERYONE can do the basics. I have no time for the student who wants to UNDERSTAND further. Everybody has regressed to the mean. Now we’re trying to make everyone average or above average.

Oh and Senior Cirizen Kane?

The statistics the ajc used were like dropping an atom bomb on Atlanta and looking for effects by measuring the temperature change over the entire state. The statistics were of the sort that Los Vegas uses to hire guys to look for cheating. It tells them that cheating is taking place everywhere


March 26th, 2012
12:10 pm

You are offering anecdotal evidence, but I would say you may be correct in saying employees in lower level jobs have improved skills. The problem is that international standardized assessment shows a much lower RATE of improvement than many other countries. Our students are mastering more content, but at a much slower rate than other countries. We have our students trotting, but many countries (Germany, Finland, Singapore, South Korea, China, etc.) have their students running. That hurts us in the higher paying jobs market here in the U.S.

Steve Jobs told President Obama that Apple employees 30,000 engineers in China. His statement was not that he was seeking cheap engineers, but that he could not find 30,000 engineers in one place in the U.S. China turns out an astounding number of engineers as well as science, technology and math majors. Yes, I know China has a huge population, but all of the countries who are ahead of us in the international assessments also are heavy on the STEM majors. This is where high level thinking is most prevalent and where the high paying jobs of the future lie.

NCLB has had only marginal success in improving U.S. competitiveness. IMO – it has not provided anywhere near the proper ROI that it should have for the money invested in it. Much of the money has gone to testing and test prep and unregulated tutorial companies, and even more has gone to a vast bureaucracy of non teaching employees charged with the “care and feeding” of NCLB. I agree that cheating should not take place. However, just tightening up testing rules will not ensure students master high level STEM content that enable them to participate in the high paying global job market.

shame on georgia

March 26th, 2012
12:10 pm

The Common Core Standards should be tabled until the US government can find funds to increase teacher pay. You will no longer get more for less. Public schools are a disaster, and the federal government needs to take a hands off approach. Too much involvement.

Mary Elizabeth

March 26th, 2012
12:12 pm

The real tragedy behind misrepresenting students’ standardized test scores, by cheating, is that the instructional levels for individual students will not be correctly identified. Their instructional levels will appear to be higher than they actually are.

That means that more students will be incorrectly taught on their frustration levels instead of on their correctly identified instructional levels. Teaching more students on their frustration levels will lead to more students who will drop out of school.


March 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

@ Senior Citizen Kane

“If I read correctly, the AJC examined 69,000 schools and found evidence of cheating in 200. Statistically, that’s zero. Shouldn’t the headline be how few schools are cheating?”

It is 200 “districts”, not “schools”. So, it is not “200 out of 69,000″. The 69,000 figure is “schools”. So, 200 districts would be a much larger number of schools; perhaps there is a figure for the # of schools in the research.

However, I do agree that the research shows there are some school systems that are not cheating. Even if the numbers of cheating systems are small, they are unacceptable. Also, I believe this statistical analysis is looking for extreme/obvious cases of cheating. When you broaden to cheating that is more borderline, the number would be much higher.

Many of these school systems are such a mess. Children deserve much better. I am glad that I chose to home-school my child from the start.


March 26th, 2012
12:26 pm

@OP and D
I’m offering my anecdotal evidence as I see no hard evidence offered, only lots of condemnation. I’m wondering if there is any hard evidence.

And OPT-have there been demographic changes at your school? There have been a lot of changes in the Atlanta area and what was once considered a really good school can easily slip down in the hierarchy behind newer schools.

I share your concerns about the 10th to 50th percentile students, but that’s not what NCLB is targeted at.

Mary Elizabeth

March 26th, 2012
12:35 pm

Addendum to my 12:12 post:

Not to mention, incorrect placement in courses, to begin with.


March 26th, 2012
12:46 pm

if you cant see that children for the most part are fatter and dumber and softer than they were 30 to 40 years ago you are blind!!


March 26th, 2012
12:46 pm

Also, I agree there is TOO much emphasis on the tests and there should be more than 1 measure of success. I don’t believe my school is “teaching to the test,” but they are spending too much time on them. 5 weeks out of my child’s 3rd grade year was spent testing or preparing for tests.


March 26th, 2012
12:58 pm

Mary Elizabeth…what do you do all day?

Old Physics Teacher

March 26th, 2012
1:59 pm

“I share your concerns about the 10th to 50th percentile students, but that’s not what NCLB is targeted at”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what NCLB is targeted at – NO – as in NONE left behind. Our schools, businesses, and our society, value excellence, not failure. NCLB was designed to take the kids we were leaving behind and make them successful. Actually, that can’t be done – large scale. We “save” kids one at a time. We lose most of the ones that are “behind’ – the artists, dreamers, etc. But when we save one,… that’s why we stay teaching. But we lose a lot more than we win – that’s called life…, and a test that measures a performance of a performer and blames the director for the performance is… exactly what we have now.

Now, maybe we were leaving behind children who learned at a slower rate. Maybe we were leaving behind kids who don’t have the upper-level abilities and “forbidding” them from taking harder courses, but so does business and society. I know that’s not “right,” but that’s life. NCLB tried to change that.

“…I don’t believe my school is “teaching to the test…”

and I don’t believe in gravity, but your own facts say otherwise. In your school, 15% of your child’s 3rd grade year has been spent in these worthless tests. QED. And by the way… No school currently uses the expression “teach to the test.” Our current buzz words are: “teach to the standards,” or “teach using the language of the standards.” You say potato…

And to the poster who talks about Steve Jobs going to China to get engineers because we don’t produce enough….

That’s “Apple propaganda.” Jobs when to China for the cheaper labor – period. It is common knowledge in the hardware/software fields that the USA has the best engineers, the best schools, and the best instructors – and we have plenty. Many of them are currently out of work, because they cost so much, and businesses have moved the work “off-shore.” What Pakistan, India, and China have is cheap, basic labor. The USA engineers design and the cheap Asian (and Middle eastern) labor produce. There’s a reason the rest of the world beats a door to our colleges. It’s simply because we teach better and produce better workers – we just cost a lot more than ASIA’s.

To Ann

March 26th, 2012
2:07 pm

Ann, you’re living my dream life. I would love to home school my children. Please tell me about your way of doing it. For example what online or paper text books and sites do you use? What is the day like for you and your children? What outside activities do you use to supplement your child’s life? Are you allowed any type of support or services from public schools? My two cousins homeschool. One belongs to a group where one of the parents teaches a science subject to several children and so on. If you care to share, please let me know what made you want to homeschool.
Thanks, Ann,

To Shame on Georgia

March 26th, 2012
2:09 pm

SOG, you wrote “The Common Core Standards should be tabled until the US government can find funds to increase teacher pay. ”
Why throw such a softball?
If you really mean what you say, go on strike. What’s stopping you?


March 26th, 2012
3:00 pm

bu2–maybe because you’ve got college grads working as cashiers? I know one of my children, with a master’s degree in astrophysics, is currently making smoothies (and she does a VERY good job, too! She can make change and everything!)

Ed Johnson

March 26th, 2012
3:19 pm

“Our schools, businesses, and our society, value excellence, not failure.”

Really? One might reasonably argue that our schools, businesses (especially), and our society value winners and losers, not excellence.

Just look at President Obama’s “Race to the Top Competition.” Yes, competition – a competition that, by design, aims to create winner states and loser states; a competition where becoming a winner state requires compliance with competition rules; a competition that puts NCLB on steroids; a competition that amounts to not only a blockade on learning how to improve public education but also amounts to a frontal assault on holding to democratic ideals in service to the common good.

Somehow we’ve come to believe winning is the same as excellence. It is not. And while our businesses keep leading us into “global competition,” the rest of the world seems in pursuit of global cooperation.

For example…

Old Physics Teacher

March 26th, 2012
3:21 pm

To – I think it’s – Good Mom?

About Steve Jobs comment to the Pres. (and by the way, I own an iPad) is easily proved wrong. The major company that produces the Apple laptops had a flash explosion (that killed a large number of these “engineers” really just assembly-line workers) due to too much aluminum dust in the air from rounding off the cuts in the top of the laptop case where the “apple” goes. This type of explosion is well-known and its prevention is taught in college science classes. In the USA, dust accumulators (not just metal dust) are a requirement by OSHA. China doesn’t have OSHA so it’s a lot cheaper to produce there. Oh, and the explosions that occur in the USA due to this? Did you know OSHA has been stripped of much of its enforcement authority lately? I’ll give you three guesses why.

Just A Teacher

March 26th, 2012
3:45 pm

Thanks AJC for your journalistic integrity. If other systems are cheating, I want them caught. However, none of this excuses any behavior by any teacher in Georgia. I stand firmly by what I have said all along: there is no excuse for cheating on standardized tests. We have all known for a very long time that NCLB’s reliance on standardized test scores is nonsense. What should have been done is fair administration of the tests and then let our legislators deal with the results. If you are teaching to the best of your ability and the kids are learning, the rest is hogwash! The only way we will ever get over this idiotic fascination with standardized test results is if people have to deal with the real results. Besides, how can people who regularly punish students for honor code violations fail to live up to basic levels of academic honesty themselves? What a bunch of hypocrites!

mountain man

March 26th, 2012
5:52 pm

“Steve Jobs told President Obama that Apple employees 30,000 engineers in China. His statement was not that he was seeking cheap engineers,”

If you believe that statement, I have a bridge I want to ell you…

mountain man

March 26th, 2012
5:52 pm


March 26th, 2012
6:19 pm

There’s a difference between devoting the whole ciriculuum to the test and devoting 5 weeks. Its an IB ciriculuum and the other 85% is not catering to the test. So while 15% is way too much, its not 100%.

And I agree with you about the engineers. There are a lot of American engineers that are looking for work. Silicon Valley just doesn’t want to pay so much. The good news is that wages are rising so fast in India and China, most of the cost advantage will dissappear pretty quickly.


March 26th, 2012
6:21 pm


There are many that are obviously still HS kids working as cashiers.


March 26th, 2012
6:25 pm

On the 10th-50th percentile, my concern is not that they are failing. Its that the system is settling for adequate, not excellent.


March 26th, 2012
6:28 pm

“dumber” can’t be seen. Fatter and softer maybe you have a point. Weaker in emotional intelligence maybe so. “Dumber,” I don’t agree. Many of those from 30 years ago are now administrators in APS and DCSS and the DOE.


March 26th, 2012
9:49 pm

Really? You just figured this out? Statisticians could have told you the whole “raise test scores” craziness was flawed. The only way to do it was to (a) have a significant change in your student population, or (b) cheat.

Old Physics Teacher

March 26th, 2012
9:55 pm


Sorry for being late getting back to you. Yes, the demographics has changed. Like most of the schools in the state, when a kid proves he can’t or won’t do the work, we transfer him to an alternative school ;) This means that the lowest level (straight F’s) isn’t here past the 11th grade and raises our test scores.

What has changed is NCLB, HOPE-caused grade inflation, 2nd (and 3rd) chance taking tests, dumbing down the curriculum, standards-based learning, learning-focused schools, etc, etc,

“On the 10th-50th percentile, my concern is not that they are failing. Its that the system is settling for adequate, not excellent.” Didn’t you read my post? Excellence for everyone is not possible! The term “bell curve” has been co-opted by sociologists who have trouble with Algebra I so I’ll use the correct term: the Normal Distribution Curve. Haven’t you read Garrison Keillor and his stories about Lake Wobegon – as in Woe-be-gone? THAT’S THE ENTIRE PROBLEM WITH NCLB AND HIGH STAKES TESTING!!! It can’t be done – average is average half above and half below. No amount of wishing won’t change that. But the politicians and society keep trying to believe three impossible things before breakfast like Alice. Now they’ve said it so much and so often that average kids who used to say they wanted to graduate high school, get a job, buy a home, get married, and raise a family, now say they want to go to college so they can make real money as if college degree grew on trees, and the conferring of a degree was a guarantee of success. That was never true, and is less true today. These kids are getting out of college and owing as much money as they will make in the next 15 – 20 years and are mad as you-know-what. And everyone of us who thought NCLB was the right way to go IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!

I just re-read what you said, and I realized that you might have been talking about teachers letting the upper kids settle for adequate. If that’s what you meant, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

The only way we can make the kids excel is to make sure that all kids are ability-grouped and then teach to improve each group’s skill-levels and force them to excel. We used to do that in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Unfortunately, someone opened Schools of Education in which these individual Ph. D’s of Education taught open-eyed and gullible college students who wanted to be teachers that content knowledge was less important than teaching students about self-esteem and psycho-babble. When these guy die off, maybe we can fix the problems. I hope so. Some states are going back to requiring public school teachers to have a degree in their content area and don’t give a flip about the edu-babble courses. Maybe there’s hope for the future – in other states. As for Georgia, unless the legislature gets out of education and admits they screwed it up, I don’t see much hope.

Mary Elizabeth

March 26th, 2012
10:16 pm

@Brandy, 1:48 pm, 3/25/12

“@Mary Elizabeth, Ron F., et al…Have you guys seen this recent post on Education Week, Teacher: Teacher in a Strange Land, Not Common. Not Core, Either’?”

AND at 2:10 pm, 3/25/12

“Also, please read this insightful blog posting that very effectively reveals the real intent behind the Common Core–the dual purpose of teaching to the test and raising profits.



I just finished reading both of those in depth articles. Thank you for the links to both. Here is the last paragraph from the last link you gave. I have reposted that link in this post for any who want to read the article in full.

“Words cannot describe how sad it is that the education of our nation’s children will be narrowed and distorted because of the massive wealth and influence of the Gates Foundation, and the US DOE’s successful effort to bribe states through Race to the Top to adopt these absurd prescriptions and methodologies.”

I recall mentioning on another thread that often “educated educators” at the County Office level are not aware of how important it is to teach each student on his or her exact instructional level for maximum student growth. That is why we had a mandate from a metro County Office Department of Instruction, a few years ago, in which all 8th grade students were required to take Algebra in 8th grade (whatever their individual knowledge base in mathematics was) and 50% of those 8th grade students ended up failing that mandated course. I had said in my previous post that this happens because high level educators are so specialized in their areas of expertise that they sometimes are unaware of the “sophisticated instructional needs” of students. They need the input of perceptive classroom teachers to keep curriculum mandates grounded and sound.

It appears that that has happened with the development of Common Core standards in which David Coleman, a young man who had worked for Gates Foundation, but who had never, himself, taught students, was hired to develop the course work for the national Common Core standards. Likewise, Joanne Weiss, Arne Duncan’s Chief of Staff has never taught students. She began her professional career as as a VP of multi-media curriculum and assessment for an educational corporation.

I am concerned not only about the favoring of nonfiction, factual information over fiction within the Common Core standards but also about, as I see it, an out-of-proportion emphasis upon math and science in relation to literature, history, and the arts coming from the national Department. of Education. I could elaborate, here, upon why literature, history and the arts remain important to emphasize in curriculum, even in this Age of Technology and Computers, but I think I will simply quote part of a post from my own blog, entitled, “Danger Zone: Stereotypical Thinking,” and let my words imply why. See below:

“I have observed that some who view others with generalized, stereotypical perceptions, often insist that the only valid ways of knowing truths are through factual, mathematical, and scientific deductions. Although those ways of perceiving should be valued, it seems that many who accept only those ways of perceiving truth often fail to recognize and develop higher consciousness concerning why we are here, who we and others are in full, and how we should relate to others. These ways of understanding reality are fostered, not by a series of facts, but by the humanities, which emphasize mutilayered dimensions of thinking and perceiving human nature with complexity. Moreover, those who are exclusively centered on sets of facts for determining reality may often fail to appreciate the transcendent beauty and power of the human spirit, as experienced in performances such as Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.” The humanities and the arts aid in cutting through stereotypical thinking into more realistic and complex understanding of ourselves and others. Seeing others as stereotypes not only limits the other in our mind, but it also impairs our ability to solve effectively many of the world’s problems. For example, I do not think the problems between Israelis and Palestinians will be solved, regardless of how many facts are on the table, until both groups can envision the other as equal human beings who have an equal right to exist where they are, and not simply as the embodiment of a stereotypical external label, which can easily be turned into a one-dimensional, caricatured enemy.”

In other words, we need to develop wisdom, as well as knowledge, in America’s citizens in order to create a better, more civilized world for our progeny.

In terms of the emphasis placed, in the Common Core standards, upon teachers not asking students questions before having the students read an assignment (such as reading and understanding Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address), obviously those who established that requirement were unaware of a basic Reading-in-the-Content-Area technique, of long-standing, which would not only help students read with more understanding, but would also help them retain what they have read. Of course, students need to engage with the textbook on their own, but the teacher can set the stage for that happening, effectively, through questioning and discussing with students about their knowledge base, relative to the passage’s content, before having the students read the text passage. Teachers should, also, teach students specific reading techniques of how to build engagement with the text before they read the textbook passage instead of simply reading the passage “cold” (as was required in the CC standards).

Below is the link to my blog which explains this in greater detail. The post is entitled “SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review)”:

The bottom line, Brandy, is that much more teacher input is needed to improve the quality of education for students across America. Teachers need to be afforded the respect due them for knowing their profession well, and they should be treated as the professionals that they are. Everybody (and his mother) thinks that they know more about how to teach children than teachers, and that list includes those personnel high in the U. S. Department of Education, evidently, businessmen such as Bill Gates, state legislators, and parents.

Teachers need to join their professional organizations and become more vocal about what they know, as you and others are doing, Brandy.


March 26th, 2012
10:26 pm

Mary Elizabeth, I’m glad to see that SQ3R is not dead. We were taught that method many long years ago. I know that my mother, who taught reading for many years (she retired a quarter-century ago) thinks it is an excellent method, and I have used it with my own students for a number of years.

Mary Elizabeth

March 26th, 2012
11:10 pm

@ScienceTeacher671, 10:26 pm

Thanks for your remarks. Yes, I practiced SQ3R with much success when I was an active teacher, and I taught that textbook reading technique to the other curriculum teachers in my high school through inservice training at the school. They, too, found it effective with their students and they told me that the grades of their students improved, as a result of their using it. As I said, the content in the textbook was more likely to stay in the students’ long-term memories if they used SQ3R. SQ3R has been researched to be highly effective.

What is surprising is that the U.S. Dept of Education, through its Common Core standard mandates, is requiring the exact opposite approach in reading textbook instruction than the SQ3R approach. It appears that these high level U. S. Dept. of Education personnel have not been exposed to as substantive an approach to textbook reading as SQ3R. In fact, the Common Core textbook reading textbook requirements which they built, which do not allow questioning before reading, will be fed out to schools across the nation. Unbelievable.

Again, thank you, Brandy, for alerting us to this information. Below is from the link Brandy posted on this thread at 2:10 pm yesterday:

“Today’s Answer Sheet features a compelling critique by Jeremiah Chaffee, a New York State teacher, of the Common Core’s pre-packaged and scripted lesson on the Gettysburg Address, which tells teachers, among other things, that their students cannot be asked to read the piece in advance (to mimic testing conditions), and ‘forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely on individual experience and opinion.’

It also instructs teachers to ‘avoid giving any background context’ because the prescribed Common Core’s close reading strategy ‘forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.’ “


March 27th, 2012
12:02 am

@ScienceTeacher, I, too, use SQ3R regularly.

@Mary Elizabeth, My lengthy response disappeared, so I’ll just sum up:
Thank you, I agree. What confuses and troubles me the most is this: Why the Common Core? Every single subject area’s national board or council has rigorous, well-researched, and proven standards that are available for free and materials (and lessons) that are aligned are already available. I know from experience that both the ELA standards and the visual arts standards are phenomenally written. So, why not buy into them? Because, “buying in” is what is at the heart of the issue, as Arne Duncan’s representative so elucidated.

My mother, in addition to being a certified and trained EBD and interrelated special educator, is a reading specialist. Her response to the article, others I shared with her, and the materials on EngageNY was this: “I’m not sure if it will raise test scores or not, but it sure will bore students AND teachers into hating reading.” We spent a good bit of the weekend discussing this and both felt that everything presented in this methodology flies in the face of everything we have ever been taught about literacy education–and everything we know works. She regularly uses pre-teaching in both small group special education classes and co-taught courses to much success (her small group students, on average, are mainstreamed after 1 year working with her). We both incorporate programs from Reading is Fundamental, Reading Rainbow, and Wishbone into instruction to pre-teach, review, present a different approach to a concept, or simply to engage (thank goodness for YouTube!). We both feel that cold reading as value, but it should in no way be the norm, because very little real world reading is cold reading.

Teaching in Baltimore, I was required to incorporate job applications, memos, advertisements, and other examples of “real world” reading into my lessons. Unfortunately, these materials are rarely above a 5th grade reading level, generally far below, around a 3rd grade reading level. The students enjoyed these lessons because the material was too easy–not because they were getting anything of value out of them. Is real world reading important? Yes, but it should not replace fiction which engages, challenges, and entertains.


March 27th, 2012
12:05 am

That should say “cold reading has value”.


March 27th, 2012
12:06 am

Oh, and did you all catch TFA’s new partnership with Imagine International charter schools? Imagine, one of the largest for-profit charter companies, is barely hanging on in terms of student performance but TFA is hanging its hat on the program’s success:
Odd, just odd.

Mary Elizabeth

March 27th, 2012
12:44 am


Your mother sounds like an outstanding teacher like her daughter. I, too, agree with what you have written.

I’m going to sleep in just a minute but I wanted to cut and paste the Paul Krugman editorial that I mentioned on the latest thread on this blog because I think that one has to sign it to read it. There is a paragraph on charter schools I want to highlight for you and others. Here is the column on ALEC’s influence in changing America to serve corporate interests. Last, is my highlight.

“Lobbyists, Guns and Money”
by Paul Krugman, NY Times, 3/25/12

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.

And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we’re getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.

And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren’t just about generating immediate benefits to the organization’s corporate sponsors; they’re about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?

Yet that’s not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

Now, ALEC isn’t single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters — a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda — is one good way to highlight what’s going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.”


Here is the information, from the above column, that Krugman shares on charter schools that I think many will find enlightening. Read below:

“And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we’re getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.”


March 27th, 2012
12:57 am

@Mary Elizabeth, Just darn crazy. I dearly hope the average person starts to wake up about this issue. Did you catch that Florida parents (yes, parents!) just shut down that state’s effort to introduce a broad charter bill that would have given parents the ability to take over any public school and turn it into a charter if they had 51% of the vote. Maybe, just maybe, people are waking up.


March 27th, 2012
6:16 am

Brandy & Mary Elizabeth, I guess I shall have to start paying closer attention. So far we’ve had 3 different in-service presentations by 3 different presenters about what CC will mean for science classes, and I’ve yet to hear the “cold reading” mandate presented. I don’t know if I missed it or if the presenters I heard did, but none of them were from the USDOE.

Mary Elizabeth

March 27th, 2012
6:17 am

@Brandy, no, I hadn’t known about the Florida parents opting to go against the state’s legislative effort to introduce that bill that would have given the parents the ability to turn any public school into a charter if they had 51% of the vote. Thanks, again, for keeping this old retired, but still activist, teacher informed!

Of course, what needs to be highlighted, also, is why the Florida legislature would be submitting such a transformational bill regarding public education, anyway? Do you think that it might, just might, have some connection to ALEC. Thank God for Krugman’s voice. I surely wish the AJC would become as passionate about ALEC as they have become about cheating in schools. Of course, ALEC is more political and, thereby, more precarious for the AJC to tackle, I would imagine.

Nevertheless, we are in danger of losing our democracy to these rightwing corporate ideologues and their self-serving interests, if the 4th Estate does not reach deep into its conscience and expose what is going on. The press MUST keep our beloved democratic Republic – as designed by our Founding Fathers and sustained by Lincoln’s commitment – alive not only for present day Americans but to demonstrate to posterity that self-government is possible to sustain itself, over time!

To Mary Elizabeth

March 27th, 2012
6:43 am

I always appreciate your posts but I have to disagree with this point ” Teachers need to be afforded the respect due them for knowing their profession well, and they should be treated as the professionals that they are.”
I sincerely believe you, Mary Elizabeth, fall into the category of a professional who knows how to teach; however, you must understand or accept that not all teachers are like you. My child’s teacher cannot speak nor write simple, common standard English. Hisher verbs and subjects don’t agree. Heshe uses present and past tense incorrectly. Heshe has taught my child atrocious grammar and I have yet to undo what heshe has taught my child. Not every teacher is like you, Mary Elizabeth. Not every teacher has mastered what they should have learned when they were children.

Mary Elizabeth

March 27th, 2012
9:00 am

@To Mary Elizabeth from GM, 6:43 am

Thank you for your kind words to me, personally. As within any profession, there will be some incompetency among a few of the profession. Within the teaching profession, I have found that those teachers who are incompetent are minimal.

Those teachers who are incompetent should, first, have the opportunity for remediation. If that remediation is not effective, then they should be dismissed. However, that is for the teacher’s direct administrator to decide because administrators can best assess the whole panaroma of a given teacher’s needed skills, relative to the curriculum area that a teacher teaches. A teacher’s ability to nurture and foster growth in students is important as well as teacher’s mastery of specific skills, such as subject/verb agreement. The principal can weigh the needed balance.

However, I continue to maintain that, as a professional group, “teachers should be treated as the professionals that they are.” Poor teachers are, by far, the exception, according to my particular experiences in working with hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers over a 35 year period of time.


March 27th, 2012
12:19 pm

@ GM, 6:43 am: “My child’s teacher cannot speak nor write simple, common standard English. Hisher verbs and subjects don’t agree. Heshe uses present and past tense incorrectly. Heshe has taught my child atrocious grammar and I have yet to undo what heshe has taught my child.”

How very curious. Several blog-threads back on the one about APS Redistricting, you stated over and over that your children go to Mary Lin ES. Does Mary Lin have many teachers such as the one you describe here??


March 27th, 2012
5:14 pm

@FYI, GM/Good Mother/other names is a troll. Nothing more, nothing less. He or she always comes up with some personal experience that fits every single situation, even when those personal experiences conflict. For example, many, many weeks ago he or she claimed to have children in Decatur, but then magically shifted to having children at Mary Lin, which is in APS, no? As they say at zoos: “Don’t feed the animals.”…or, in this case, “Don’t feed the trolls.”

Being Censored by @Maureen

March 27th, 2012
7:36 pm

@Maureen is not allowing all comments on this blog. She refuses to allow contrarian points of view so you are not getting the full story on the AJC data study.


March 27th, 2012
7:50 pm

@ Brandy. Yes…and notice how GM always race-baits in some way? Here, it’s obviously African American Vernacular English. Other times it’s been black schools such as Coan (”turd in a punch bowl”) or Toomer (”tumor”). Loves to set intown neighborhoods against one another……..


March 29th, 2012
12:06 pm

As I have stated in the previous blog… Go for the Big Picture. The lack of ethics starts at the top. How much money is Pearson and the others giving to government? Who is connected to who because this teacher notices the test is the center of everything on the school level? It is so serious, some schools and districts are using DI to teach students only about test items. True education, critial thought, exploration, etc. are out the door. This testing agenda is so important,even parents are convinced of their children’s total success after passing the test, as if they have gained some great educational feat (AJC’s list of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ schools, a joke and very traumatizing to communities). Read between the lines.

Education is poorly researched and poorly done in this country. Legislators are riding the ignorance of Americans by touting their various reforms such as Race to the Top, NCLB, the BEST. It is all crap, poorly researched and poorly acted out in the various systems. Common sense folk… Tying money to educational achievement is totally unethical in itself. Education is not business. Most teachers are there because it was a calling, not extrinsic reasons. (At least this was the case in the past,now most are struggling to get out if they have some common sense or counting down to retirement.) Most (and I say most, not all) teachers mean well to the students and believe they can make a change. Tying money to education, not only attracts the wrong people but also creates a very unhealthy atmosphere in the field. Look at the bigger picture people. The whole system needs to be torn down.

Mary Elizabeth

March 29th, 2012
6:50 pm

“Tying money to educational achievement is totally unethical in itself. Education is not business. Most teachers are there because it was a calling, not extrinsic reasons. . . .Tying money to education, not only attracts the wrong people but also creates a very unhealthy atmosphere in the field. Look at the bigger picture people.”

I certainly agree with those statements, above. However, I do not believe that “(t)he whole system needs to be torn down.” I believe traditional public education needs to be improved from within. Public charter schools can help in this regard, if they will work with, and not in opposition to, traditional public schools. Standardized testing should be used, mainly, for diagnostic/prescriptive purposes. Standardized testing can exist in harmony with teaching students for critical thought, exploration, and creativity, if educators have the will and insight to balance both testing knowledge with a creative delivery of instruction. Those in top leadership positions must recognize the value of this balance before it can be filtered down to teachers to implement it.

Mary Elizabeth

March 29th, 2012
7:01 pm

Post Script to my 6:50 pm post:

In terms of “(l)ook(ing) at the bigger picture,” I will remind all readers, again, that there is an ideological movement within our nation which is determined to dismantle much of the public sector, “the beast of government,” as they see it, and that movement includes dismantling traditional public education.

Americans cannot allow this to happen because traditional public education, financed through taxes on the general public, supports the public and common interest of all citizens. We must commit to improving traditional public education, and not to “tearing it down.”