Interesting story in the AJC today on a cheating scandal involving hired ringers taking the teacher qualification exam for candidates in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The ringers used faked IDs to sit for the Praxis exam, administered by the Educational Testing Service. Praxis exams are required by 40 states and territories to measure the academic achievement and proficiency of newly minted teachers.
According to ETS: The Praxis Series tests measure specific content and pedagogical knowledge for beginning teaching practice. The tests do not measure skills related to an individual’s disposition toward teaching or potential for success. The assessments are designed to be comprehensive and inclusive, but are limited to what can be covered in a finite number of questions and question types.
I spent some time reviewing research on whether Praxis scores were reliable signposts of teacher effectiveness.
I read a paper by Linda Darling-Hammond in which she noted, “Student gains were not significantly related to teachers’ Praxis scores.” I found a 2009 study that concluded: “No statistically significant relationship between a teacher candidate’s Praxis Series score and subsequent Teacher Performance Assessment was determined.”
However, I also found some literature on the shared characteristics of effective teachers. One was passing the Praxis exams with high scores on the first try.
According to the story: (This is only an excerpt. Please read the full piece before commenting.)
For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.
Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.
Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.
The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the indictment alleges. Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the scheme.
Mumford “obtained tens of thousands of dollars” during the alleged conspiracy, which prosecutors say lasted from 1995 to 2010 in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Prosecutors and standardized test experts say students were hurt the most by the scheme because they were being taught by unqualified teachers. It also sheds some light on the nature of cheating and the lengths people go to in order to get ahead.
“As technology keeps advancing, there are more and more ways to cheat on tests of this kind,” said Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas. “There’s a never-ending war between those who try to maintain standards and those who are looking out for their own interests.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog