A new cheating scandal: Aspiring teachers hiring ringers

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

62 comments Add your comment

Jbraml

November 25th, 2012
6:26 pm

As a retired 30 year teacher, I find it shameful that members of the my profession would stoop so low as to cheat on the Praxis. However, with that being said the Praxis does not in any way define whether a person is qualified to teach. Teaching is art, not a science. You either can teach or you can’t. You can either connect with the kids or you can’t. No test can measure that.

Mortimer Collins

November 25th, 2012
6:26 pm

Just one more reason why public education should be done away with.

Sandy Springs parent

November 25th, 2012
6:37 pm

I often wonder how some of my children’s teacher’s can pass the exam when they think ax is ask.

My twelve year old tells me she corrects several of her teachers for teaching incorrect items. she says they just make up factoids. I know this is true because a friend of mine from college insisted that the Great Lakes were fresh water lakes. I told her they were fresh water lakes and I grew up within 30 miles of them. I had been to all of them. She told me her high school teacher told her they were Salt Water lakes, so then they were. I told her no, that was Salt Lake. Finally, I took her home with me. The whole 7 hour drive she insisted they were salt water lakes. I took her to Lake Erie on the New York side, I made her get in and taste the water. I asked her does that taste salty like ocean water? No, but my Teacher said so. I took her to the Canadian side of Lake Erie to Crystal Beach and did the same thing. I took her on the maid of the mist ride at the bottom of the Niagria Falls where Lake Ontario dumps into Lake Erie. I asked her if she was being drenched with salt water or fresh water. She finally admitted Fresh Water. She finally admitted that her teacher may have taught her the wrong information. My question to her was did you want to go through life Mary Jane, sounding ignorant saying the Great Lakes because some incompetent teacher told you so. Then you would argue with someone who grew up on the Great Lakes that they were the one who was one. The person who grew up eating fish fry’s of fresh water lake perch and bass for $3.00 at the VFW.

DeKalb Wonkette

November 25th, 2012
6:37 pm

Ditto Mortimer. Not only do we know what they are, we know the price as well.

Pride and Joy

November 25th, 2012
6:47 pm

This is an important quote not highlighted by Get Schooled. It comes from a very young 23 year old teacher. “Nina Monfredo, a 23-year-old history teacher at Power Center Academy in Memphis, has taken Praxis exams for history, geography, middle school content, and secondary teaching and learning.

Monfredo, who passed all her tests and is not involved in the fraud case, said the exams she took were relatively easy for someone who has a high school education. She said some people use study aids to prepare, but she didn’t. And she didn’t feel much pressure because it was her understanding that she could take the test again if she did not pass.

“If you feel like you can’t pass and you hire someone it means you really didn’t know what you were doing,” she said. “I think it would be easier to just learn what’s on the test.”
Georgia teachers were also involved in the same cheating in 1998. Read the WHOLE story.
This just proves the point that standardized tests for students DOES NOT make teachers cheat on tests. These teachers cheated before they ever entered the classroom. We can’t blame NCLB on teacher cheating. Just like other professions, the teaching profession has cheaters and liars too.

Pride and Joy

November 25th, 2012
7:28 pm

“Teaching is art, not a science.”
And cheating is a crime, not an excuse.

MidGaTeacher

November 25th, 2012
7:33 pm

This is sad. There are members of every profession who discredit the rest, but this is ridiculous. I agree that passing the Praxis or GACE does not make one a good teacher, BUT one cannot be a good teacher without a firm grasp of the subject you are teaching. Having taken 2 Praxis Tests and 2 GACE tests for various certifications at the high school level…it is my opinion that anybody unable to pass these minimum skills test is unfit for teaching…PERIOD. I could have passed my content exams after high school or at most one year of college. Not to step on any toes, but how can you prepare students to be successful on exams (not just school tests…many professions require minimum skill tests) if you are unable to pass one yourself. Completely unacceptable under any circumstances.

I realize that Praxis and GACE are more about the money than meaning, but actually passing these tests shouldn’t even be part of the discussion.

JW

November 25th, 2012
7:34 pm

If a private school is accredited, then they hire certified teachers as well. So this isn’t necessarily just a public school issue.

RCB

November 25th, 2012
7:47 pm

I guess I’m naive, but I’m astounded at the number of ways people find to cheat, especially in education. How would you ever be competent, or even feel competent, if you’ve resorted to cheating to enter your profession? Teachers found guilty should lose their license for life. I can’t stand a cheater.

bootney farnsworth

November 25th, 2012
7:53 pm

is anybody really surprised? cheating is as old as testing. then factor in the whole Beverly Hall fiasco, when it was announced to the world as long as you have the right backing, demographics, ect you can skate?

throw on top a meaningless test designed by big education which has zero bearing on talent or effectiveness…

the real surprise is the cheating is so limited.

Westside1

November 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

Speaking of cheaters, whatever happened to Tamara Cotman, et al? Did they get away with it?

catlady

November 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

Why would anyone need someone to take the Praxis? Like many of the tests we have, you have to be pretty darned incompetent to fail it.

RCB

November 25th, 2012
8:06 pm

Yes, speaking of cheaters, I’ve been thinking for about a year now that Paul Howard is moving at a snail’s pace regarding Beverly, Tamara, et al. I think he is loathe to do it.

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
8:08 pm

2009 study that concluded: “No statistically significant relationship between a teacher candidate’s Praxis Series score and subsequent Teacher Performance Assessment was determined.

That should tell you something about teacher assessment in the workplace. Also seen in print and heard with my ears commentary that ivy league graduates do not do well as public school teachers, which is an outrageous generalization containing profound prejudicial bias.

Teacher and Taxpayer

November 25th, 2012
8:10 pm

@RCB I agree. If I had to pass all of my tests by myself, then everyone should be required to do the same thing. How can we hold students accountable when teachers cheat tin order o be able to receive certification? Pitiful!!! You would be surprised how many fake dissertations are out there too.

MiltonMan

November 25th, 2012
8:18 pm

More scumbag teachers involved in cheating. This is hardly even news anymore. We entrust our children to these criminals???

Ron F

November 25th, 2012
8:19 pm

“This just proves the point that standardized tests for students DOES NOT make teachers cheat on tests. These teachers cheated before they ever entered the classroom. We can’t blame NCLB on teacher cheating. Just like other professions, the teaching profession has cheaters and liars too”

Okay, I’ll agree that anyone who would cheat on the Praxis is just lazy and doesn’t deserve the right to teach. But to assume that all those accused were not fully certified by their own effort is a bit of stretch, and typical of the stereotyping that goes on regularly on this blog. I don’t support cheaters in either situation, but you need to be able to prove that connection, and there’s no way to.

To all: find those who cheated, prosecute them and the perpretrator of this ruse, and let’s move on. While I understand the desire to brand the entire profession over the actions of a few, I’d urge you to read carefully and get factual numbers about how many were involved.

“I often wonder how some of my children’s teacher’s can pass the exam when they think ax is ask”

Aside from the OBVIOUS racism in that statement, pronunciation has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not one can pass a certification test. I guess it’s okay if the teacher uses “y’all” in a classroom?

Ron F

November 25th, 2012
8:22 pm

“More scumbag teachers involved in cheating. This is hardly even news anymore. We entrust our children to these criminals???”

MiltonMan: exactly how many teachers were proven as cheaters in APS? How many were involved in this scam? Out of the millions nationwide and we find a handful doing this. When you get rid of all of us “scumbags”, who will you have to teach? I guess those who earned their certification and do the jobs as assigned can just be replaced by anyone? Surely you don’t think people without certification should be allowed in the classroom after you get rid of us, do you?

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
8:24 pm

Years ago I told the GRE proctor at a testing center that they needed to get real and use a digital fingerprint scanner/reader to record identity. At the time they made you hand write a paragraph on some dummy question and the justification was it was a handwriting record for use of identity, if needed. It seemed quite clumsy and retrogressive as a method, as if they (the monopoly testing company) were unwilling to do professional work and instead came up with some hack remedy that was cumbersome to the test taker.

Richard

November 25th, 2012
8:30 pm

I am a new (2nd year) teacher and have taking about 6 GACE exams, the GA version of PRAXIS. I think the test is highly flawed, but I am anti standardized testing as a whole. The test does a poor job at testing teaching ability, it does a moderately good job at testing our knowledge of education rules, policy, and current trends/fads. It is hard for me to understand why someone would pay to cheat on the test. Why would you want to be in charge of children’s lives without knowing what an IEP is, what SST means and the procedures require to at minimum be a knoweldgable employee of the district. Being a good, great or exceptional teacher can not be measured in a test, it can only be observed and experienced. The same arguments against the CRCT, GRE, LSAT, SAT, ACT and what other test is equivalent to that of teacher preparedness exams. Want to know if I will be a good teacher? Review my student teaching, hire me as a co-teacher and watch me for a year or so.

lahopital

November 25th, 2012
8:37 pm

Someone who does not know the subject matter cannot teach it to someone else. Period. Any study that claims otherwise needs to be examined for rigor.

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
8:43 pm

I was going to relate a story as to how it came to be that ETS “Praxis” test product was replaced with a different product “GACE” from a different vendor, but I thought better of it, this being a public forum. One observation about the naming of “GACE” which is from a company that has offices in Boston and Texas, why does Georgia always have to “personalise” the naming of tests, as if there is something exclusive about them to the state? I think it is a bad, narcissistic pattern that results in a disservice to the state. You know, like we sell “Toyota Corollas” here, not “Georgia Toyota Corollas?”

OH NOOOooooo !!!! It’s looks like education-mega-monster British company Pearson bought the formerly independently owned testing provider that made GACE tests. Pearson subsequently purchased a series of other testing and assessment … In April 2006, Pearson acquired National Evaluation Systems, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson_PLC

More consolidation, monopoly, and lack of diversity and competition!!!! In 2011 Pearson generated total revenues of £5.9 billion, of which £4,390 million were from Pearson Education… In 2011, 60% of Pearson’s revenues were generated in North America

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
8:45 pm

And we thought we defeated the British in the War of 1812. Well guess what.

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
8:54 pm

Hey Richard, a portion of the $420. you paid for the six tests went to the British Empire! They now own the GACE tests. Pearson is going around with the checkbook buying up whatever they can, just like Microsoft used to do with independent companies writing software. In the U. S., we used to be protected by anti-trust laws from too much centralized ownership in one industry.

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
8:55 pm

A toast in London – to GACE!

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

November 25th, 2012
9:03 pm

On the PE-Praxis !??!!!??

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
9:08 pm

Aside from the OBVIOUS racism in that statement, pronunciation has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not one can pass a certification test. I guess it’s okay if the teacher uses “y’all” in a classroom?

WELL SAID.

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
9:13 pm

Q: Do you know what plural of y’all is?
A: All y’all.

PS It’s worse in New Jersey, “Youse guys.” the third mutation of the the pronoun you in the dialect between boston and philly used to emphasize a point. and A huge and enthusiastic wave for yous all from Northern Ireland – but leave out the guys. Adding guys is a generational thing – but still doesn’t … (you can cut’n'paste if you want the citation)

Private Citizen

November 25th, 2012
9:18 pm

And from Britain, ” ‘ello govna.”

mathmom

November 25th, 2012
9:22 pm

Oh, please. A few years ago a basketball coach in north Georgia was caught hiring a ringer to take continuing education courses to get PLUs for the coach’s re-certification. Did the school district do anything? No. Did the Professional Standards Commission do anything? No. So what did we learn from that? If this latest cheating scandal did not involve criminal activity, would these teachers lose their licenses? Maybe in those other states, but Georgia has already made it known that cheaters are acceptable if they are valuable enough (winning seasons, high test scores, etc.). It’s a sad state of affairs in our state.

Horace Mann

November 25th, 2012
9:37 pm

My opinion of our children’s high school teachers was that they enjoyed teaching and knew how to “teach” but they were lacking in the subject matter, particularly math and science. That seems to be what we have here; teachers who can’t pass a test on their course materials.

Wow

November 25th, 2012
9:53 pm

Actually Ron, I hear ax from white people as well. Why don’t you pull that “everything is racist” bug out of your arse. Oh, btw, good job pointing out someone’s phantom racist remark with one of your own. What? You’ve heard black people say ya’ll too? See, it goes both ways.

mountain man

November 25th, 2012
9:59 pm

“Aside from the OBVIOUS racism in that statement, pronunciation has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not one can pass a certification test. I guess it’s okay if the teacher uses “y’all” in a classroom?”

Teachers should model proper education. If a teacher uses “y’all”, or double negatives, or AX instead of ASK, they are preparing their students to be turned down when they apply for jobs. Employers also will look askance at a student that misuses your, you’re or their and there and they’re. Teachers are supposed to be EDUCATED themselves, so they should talk like they are educated.

redweather

November 25th, 2012
10:02 pm

@Westside1, Tamara Cotman may be employed by the Wichita Kansas public school system.

Middle School Man

November 25th, 2012
10:25 pm

I hope that no one has ever cheated on the bar exam or attempted to use a proctor to pass the MCAT or LSAT. I am pretty sure that there are no records of aspiring lawyers or doctors having stand ins for the tests they must pass to be a part of their profession. Surely, the only people who cheat do so because they are educators. It can’t be because there are people that aren’t as perfect as Private Citizen and make bad choices and have to suffer for those bad decisions. That being said, I understand some of the cheaters payed as much as 3,000 dollars to have the tests passed. On a typical first year teacher’s salary, that would be 2 months take home pay with no other bills paid. They must have really wanted to teach.

Hillbilly D

November 25th, 2012
10:27 pm

Q: Do you know what plural of y’all is?
A: All y’all.

This is incorrect. Y’all is always plural, never singular. All y’all is adding emphasis.

bootney farnsworth

November 25th, 2012
10:41 pm

-educators are “scumbags” & “criminals”. illustrates why I’d cheat. that kind of moronic stupidity doesn’t merit extra effort

-I’d love a link to show white people, not trying to pass as ghetto rappers, who use the term “ax” in place of ask. not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’m from Missouri on this: show me

bootney farnsworth

November 25th, 2012
10:44 pm

I had an english teacher in the 9th grade who used “he be” and “dey be” in lectures as if it was correct grammer

Top School

November 25th, 2012
11:13 pm

A few more did the drive thru for certification in leadership at NOVA.

Old South

November 25th, 2012
11:20 pm

Some of these comments relate to the issue of schooling in the South. Ax, he be, holla etc… You virtually won’t find such backwardness outside the south in US school systems. Georgia and its ilk allow this to go on because it helps to prove their (wrong) point that so many of them died for over a hundred years ago.

It’s hard enough to compete on level terms in well run school, I can’t imagine sending my kids to any public school in South. While improvememts have been made, it’s a still not like anywhere else in the nation in terms of class and race.

Digger

November 25th, 2012
11:35 pm

Many, if not most, teachers are really dumb. Creative, intelligent types present a most unflattering contrast, and will be excluded at all costs. Hence we continue see the results of allowing this below-average mostly all-girls club to continue to fester in such a crucial profession.

lahopital

November 25th, 2012
11:42 pm

Bootey – I never had an English teacher who didn’t know to capitalize the word English. Maybe it’s due to your ineffective teacher.

An apologist for y'all

November 26th, 2012
4:15 am

Just thinking aloud here …

“You all”, “Y’all”, “you guys”, etc, are used only because the English language doesn’t seem to have a convenient alternative to the use of the word ‘you’ to refer to an individual versus ‘you’ to refer to a group of people during casual conversation. If within a group I reply to another member’s comment by saying, for instance, “I’ll meet you at the car”, it’s not necessarily clear to all members of the group that I’m referring to all other members of the group rather than just the person whose comment preceded mine. Sometimes the context of the conversation makes that clear to everyone, but not always. I could say, “I’ll meet all of you at the car”, but that become stilted in everyday conversation.

Also, “Y’all” and similar phrases are widely understood to mean “You and others who share you point of view” or “You and others in your sub-group within this larger group”. Used this way it’s not often misunderstood by everyone within earshot. Again, “Y’all” makes it clear that the remark is intended to refer to two or more individuals. “You” will do just as well if you’re confident that everyone understands that it refers to a group of people. But why leave that to chance? Certainly there are alternatives to the use of “y’all” and similar phrases, but in casual, everyday conversation, I think it’s hard to beat.

I’m Southern born and bred, so “y’all” comes naturally to me. If anyone has a better alternative for casual, everyday conversation, then let’s hear it. I am open-minded.

An apologist for y'all

November 26th, 2012
5:44 am

Just thinking aloud here …

“You all”, “Y’all”, “you guys”, etc, are used only because the English language doesn’t seem to have a convenient alternative to the use of the word ‘you’ to refer to an individual versus ‘you’ to refer to a group of people during casual conversation. If within a group I reply to another member’s comment by saying, for instance, “I’ll meet you at the car”, it’s not necessarily clear to all members of the group that I’m referring to all other members of the group rather than just the person whose comment preceded mine. Sometimes the context of the conversation makes that clear to everyone, but not always. I could say, “I’ll meet all of you at the car”, but that become stilted in everyday conversation.

Also, “Y’all” and similar phrases are widely understood to mean “You and others who share you point of view” or “You and others in your sub-group within this larger group”. Used this way it’s not often misunderstood by everyone within earshot. Again, “Y’all” makes it clear that the remark is intended to refer to two or more individuals. “You” will do just as well if you’re confident that everyone understands that it refers to a group of people. But why leave that to chance? Certainly there are alternatives to the use of “y’all” and similar phrases, but in casual, everyday conversation, I think it’s hard to beat.

I’m Southern born and bred, so “y’all” comes naturally to me. But if anyone has a better alternative for casual, everyday conversation, then let’s hear it. I am open-minded.

The Truth

November 26th, 2012
6:15 am

Wow…how dumb do you have to be to not be able to pass the praxis on your own? I’d hope it was more out of laziness that these people paid for someone to take it in their place. This is by far the EASIEST professional “gateway” exam in any industry! smh

Lee

November 26th, 2012
6:25 am

With regards to the relevance of the Praxix/Gace exams, every certification I recieved required some type of exam – some easy, some difficult. The CPA exam was by far the most strenuous exam I have ever taken.

From all accounts, the Praxis is a baseline test, meaning that it measures whether the applicant possesses a minimal amount of knowledge of the subject. The CPA, on the other hand, was used to limit the number of CPAs in the marketplace in an effort to maintain the salary structure. I think at one time, the passing rate for all four parts of the CPA exam in the first sitting was something like 5-7%.

For someone to fork over $1500-3000 probably means they previously took the exam, perhaps multiple times, and failed it.

GoDawgs

November 26th, 2012
7:18 am

And another extramarital cheating scandal is going on now with Cherokee County night school principal! What a poor example for our students!

Pride and Joy

November 26th, 2012
7:27 am

Hill Billy D is correct.
Y’all is a correct contraction for “you” and “all.”
It means “all of you.”
It is correct and accepted. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/y‘all

Pride and Joy

November 26th, 2012
7:34 am

“I understand some of the cheaters payed as much as 3,000 dollars to have the tests passed. On a typical first year teacher’s salary, that would be 2 months take home pay with no other bills paid. They must have really wanted to teach.”
That’s one way to look at it — they really wanted to teach.
Of course, there’s the other way to look at it — they were incompetent and could not pass the test even when they were allowed to take it again.
And…another way is they were competent to pass it and they were simply morally bankrupt.
And of course, comparing a Praxis test to the MCAT and LSAT is laughable. The Praxis and GACE tests are ridiculously easy as evidenced by catlady, a teacher, saying so, as well as the twenty-three year old teacher who admitted that anyone with a high school education could pass these tests WITHOUT studying for it.
If someone REALLY WANTED TO TEACH, they would recognize the value in STUDYING and would WORK HARD to PASS THE TEST honestly instead of cheating.
Students must take tests and do their own work to earn their education. Teachers must be able to exemplify and demonstrate the values they expect from the children.
If adults refuse to study and pass a test, they have no business judging students for the same traits they themselves do not have.
HONESTY in schools.
INTEGRITY in schools.
They are as elementary as ABC.

Pride and Joy

November 26th, 2012
7:36 am

Mountain Man is dead on accurate when he says “Employers also will look askance at a student that misuses your, you’re or their and there and they’re. Teachers are supposed to be EDUCATED themselves, so they should talk like they are educated.”
I a that employer and those resumes with grammar errors go straight in the garbage.
I a a business woman with clients. There is no way I would hire someone to write a document with errors. It reflects poorly on my business.
Bad grammar? No job.