Approach effort to criminalize school test cheaters with caution, GOP leader warns

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) this morning expressed doubts about two bills backed by Gov. Sonny Perdue that would make it a crime for teachers and administrators to fudge school test scores.

HB 1111 and HB 1121, introduced this month by state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), would make test-tampering a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to 30 days in jail, and loss of pension.

The bills have yet to pass a House committee, so there’s been very little talk about the issue on the Senate side of the state Capitol. That said, Rogers – the leader of the Senate GOP caucus — urged Republicans to take care.

“I’m very hesitant to create any more crimes,” he said. “I think we need to solve this problem. This cheating scandal is damaging to the confidence of everyone in Georgia, on how our education system is performing. But most importantly it hurts students.

“But to criminalize it, I think, is something we must be very careful about doing. I haven’t read the legislation, but at this point I’d be very cautious,” Rogers said.

The Senate majority leader is the first Republican of rank to raise concerns about legislative reaction to the testing scandal. Educators suspected of cheating are already subject to sanctions from the state Office of Professional Standards. Penalties can include the loss of teaching certificate.

Two Democratic candidates for governor, Roy Barnes and DuBose Porter, expressed opinions similar to Rogers in this Sunday post. Porter is the House minority leader, and so could very well be asked to cast a vote on the matter.

Here’s this morning’s update on the testing scandal, by my AJC colleague Margaret Newkirk:

When Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Office of Student Achievement released its devastating report on suspected test tampering in Georgia schools last week, Perdue said the state was serious about getting to the bottom of the problem.

“We will not allow this to be whitewashed,” he said.

But even a testing expert who praised the state’s actions last week said the state may have a problem going forward.

Both the OSA and the state Board of Education have ordered investigations at the 191 schools statewide — more than half of them in metro Atlanta — where an audit found erasure marks on 2008 standardized tests unusual enough to suggest the possibility of cheating.

But the investigations will be handled by the school districts themselves, even in districts where the state found multiple schools with questionable erasures in 25 percent or more of classrooms.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

42 comments Add your comment

Marcia

February 15th, 2010
11:34 am

Roger Hines speaks out about Kathy Cox!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxvR7g94A5E

professional skeptic

February 15th, 2010
11:38 am

Agreed. If all we do is criminalize things, without sitting down to solve what lies at the root of our problems, all we do is place a greater burden on our state’s court system for non-violent crimes. And, last I checked, the court system isn’t something our state’s leaders care particularly about funding.

Wounded Warrior

February 15th, 2010
11:42 am

What about just simply firing the cheaters and they lose their pensions? And their teaching certificates, so they can’t just go to another state and do this all over again.

What has Sonny done in 8 yrs?

February 15th, 2010
12:00 pm

Looks like the Teachers Union has the legislature by the short and curlies

King Roy

February 15th, 2010
12:18 pm

Re-elect me … I will make everything right again.

mb

February 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

Only Republicans would be against criminalizing cheating on standardized tests. You idiots have no common sense at all.

Logic

February 15th, 2010
12:21 pm

Obviously, the problem here is the ADMINISTRATORS (i.e., Superintendents, Principals and Asst. Principals) not the teachers. Teachers would not have the ability to make the changes.

As for Atlanta’s Superintendent of Schools…she knew or she should have known about the cheating. Either way…she has to go!

Only a moron thinks a school can go from worst to best in one year with the same students…

Wondering

February 15th, 2010
12:24 pm

Considering all of the cheating with the CRCT…how can we go forward with pay for performance for teachers.

Will not pay for performance only make the situation worse?

say what?

February 15th, 2010
12:27 pm

more inept laws by an inept group of men who have no clue to the real world where the masses reside. If you really want a law, create ethics laws for the legislature- the same as the ones for the rest of the peon employees.

Criminalizing everything and everyone seems to be MORE government not less.

C Tucker

February 15th, 2010
12:27 pm

We must spend more money to correct this problem.
We must elect more Democrats to correct this problem.
Only Obama can save us.

Echo

February 15th, 2010
12:36 pm

@ What has Sonny done…THERE ARE NO TEACHER’S UNIONS IN GEORGIA. Get your facts straight before making a statement and maybe people will take what you say seriously.

The Late Maynord Jackson

February 15th, 2010
12:38 pm

This looks like something the Jackson Machine needs to get into.. Good fit with our Cafeteria program at the Atlanta Public School System..

Vote Roy Barnes EARLY & OFEN

Ernest

February 15th, 2010
12:42 pm

Would this legislature pass a law that would remove any legislator that has not paid their taxes? How about remove a legislator accepting favors from lobbyists?

By simply passing legislation to appease a few (like zero tolerance), we end up causing more problems that to address the issues.

Name One

February 15th, 2010
12:53 pm

Roy barnes and DuBose Porter are so depemdably weak. You’re darn right it should be a crime to change test scores. Predictable Barnes and Porter are in effect saying that it should be legal for principals and educators to change test scores. Idiots.

BehindEnemyLines

February 15th, 2010
12:54 pm

In other words, Rogers is afraid of offending the teachers unions aka “professional organizations”.

Cutty

February 15th, 2010
12:58 pm

Non-ethical legislators talking about ethics. Go figure. Weren’t they supposed to be passing ethics legislation to police themselves this session? They want everyone else held accountable except themselves.

Woodrow

February 15th, 2010
12:59 pm

Echo: Perhaps some research prior to the old stone throwing. Unions, by that name, and Collective Bargaining are illegal in GA. That’s about it. A quick peek at google will provide you with at least 4 teacher “professional organizations” that spend large amounts of money lobbying on a state and national level. Check out the NEA and GAE for starters as they are the two largest. That said, even your friendly neighborhood PTA spends money lobbying the State Legislature. Check their website, they state they lobby AGAINST school vouchers among several other things.

The Factor

February 15th, 2010
1:01 pm

The CRCT is a joke. I too, thought this was great BEFORE I had kids looking at it from 30,000 ft. Both my kids are almost staight “A” students who APPLY themselves at very good public schools and work at homework daily. One takes standardized tests well, the other doesn’t. There is way too much emphasis on the tests and stress on the kids deciding to move them on or not.

Question: What happens if a child had a pet that died the week of the test, lost a grandparent or wasn’t feeling well…Sorry, you’re stuck.

Why did Texas, the state that started this process, throw it all out? Answer, it doesn’t work. Katy Cox needs to go. She is a huge problem. We have kids taking new math without textbooks!! I could go on and on…She has to go and Sonny needs to come in out of the clouds where I also was at one time and have another child. He would change his tune.

Say One Thing, Do Another

February 15th, 2010
1:07 pm

I imagine Chip should know about crimes based legislation as his colleague Mr. Wiles is embroiled in quite a scandal over serving underage teens alcohol over in Cobb.

Latice Mitchell

February 15th, 2010
1:09 pm

The deal is, it’s already a criminal act – it’s robbing our children of the education they deserve, it simply does not have a title. By labeling it criminal it states loud & clear that if you engage in this activity, “you will be held accountable”. It can’t be about the $!!! We can never repay the students who are being robbed or recoup the losses or the costs of the mayhem caused by the trickle down effect. The questions that need to be answered are, Why can’t our children pass these tests on their own merits? Why is cheating necessary? Let’s get it together GA!

thankateacher

February 15th, 2010
1:12 pm

I agree about the CRCT being a joke as well as Cathy Cox and her ilk. She has been devastating to the public schools in Georgia. The proposed merit pay crappola will only be more of an incentive to cheat on CRCT results.

doh

February 15th, 2010
1:13 pm

Since when do Georgians, especially those in government, care about education and children? Please, no one in this state cares about kids, if they did they would improve the education of the state instead of going after “suspected cheaters” on CRCT tests that just two years ago were proved to be horribly written and not adhering to the standards. Where was AJC’s outrage then? This paper is nothing but a witch hunt. Shame on Georgia.

RGB

February 15th, 2010
1:24 pm

So it’s OK to cheat on tests provided they were “horribly written.”

Tony

February 15th, 2010
1:30 pm

High stakes testing should be the crime. It is what is hurting children. IF some schools are found to be “guilty” of changing answers on students’ papers, that does not harm children. The harm being done to children because of the testing frenzy in this state and nation will only get worse by making new laws. This is one more step down a path that has many horrible outcomes.

Our children are our future and high stakes testing will not cause them to be better educated. Good schools with adequate resources, communities that support high learning standards, and an overall climate that values learning will do more to improve educaiton than passing a new law targeting a few bad apples.

RGB

February 15th, 2010
1:39 pm

Based on the discussion I’m thinking that we should do away not only with the CRCT, but also all testing currently conducted in government schools today.

Think about it: Being “put to a test” is a degrading human experience designed only to humiliate impressionable children. Forcing skilled, capable teachers to administer tests to children likely bruises both parties’ self-worth and senses of accomplishment. How can a child judged less capable than others (e.g. getting a “C” on a test rather than an “A”) go on to be a productive citizen?

We should adopt a system that reflects the child’s karma and zest for life. For example, we could assign “hopeful” to one student, “optimistic” to another, and “encouraging” to still another.

With a graduating class of “hopeful, optimistic, and encouraging” students, the outlook for future cardiac surgeons, structural engineers, and airline pilots couldn’t be better.

Roach

February 15th, 2010
1:43 pm

Yes, you *can* accurately assess student progress, but doing it right is expensive and time-consuming. One-shot standardized tests are to accurate learning assessment as Georgia education spending is to funding a constitutionally-mandated adequate education. Isn’t violating state constitution mandates itself a crime? And some students won’t show the progress you want. Then what? Oops, nothing in the budget for that. Let’s just criminalize, demonize and blame, then move on.

New law not required

February 15th, 2010
1:49 pm

If you’ll recall, this isn’t the first time we’ve had problems with cheating on the CRCT. Last year a Dekalb school was found to have cheated on the exam, and the principal pleaded guilty to a charge of “Falsifying State Documents”. While I suppose a new law might add some additional penalties for the crime, the fact is, such cheating is already against the law, and at least one GA educator has already been convicted for changing students’ test answers.

eddie s

February 15th, 2010
1:50 pm

What a perfect example for our Children..This hypocrites of Higher Education along side the Hypocrites in the State Legislature are just stellar examples of what is wrong with our Nation…

From the Top Poltician on down we have nothing but dishonest, deceiveing immorale hypocrites and this is so amazingly, these are so called Professionals with all sorts of Ethic Codes and Creeds…All supposedly setting the example for our children…Lawyers, Teachers, Principals..they should hang their heads in shame…. Cheating is stealing, Decieving is Lying, what we need is a good dose of the Ten Commandments, these are the only real laws we need…..and that is why These same people fight to keep God out of our Schools and Government…they are helping the Devil do his job…for they are an evil people we need desperatly to vote them ALL OUT in 2010 -2012…And no I am not a crazed religous freak, just a normal every day hard working tax paying man…nothing more, nothing less….It is time to get rid of the Scum in all Professions acros this great Country Starting with our home town Schools and School Boards….the sooner the better…

jose benzaca

February 15th, 2010
2:11 pm

A bit extreme, but I agree with eddie s. Nothing like politicians who struggle with ethics trying to govern ethics.

strom

February 15th, 2010
2:14 pm

Bubba (who had his lic, suspended for fondling a patient) is the perfect example of ethics. He has none ethics.

nanny

February 15th, 2010
2:18 pm

All of this falls back on the teachers. Do we actually know the teachers changed the answers? How do we prove this? Who are the last ones to see these tests—-teachers, or principals and asst. principals?
More likely the cover your butt theory and the poor underpaid classroom teacher takes the brunt! Not fair!!

Wishful thinker

February 15th, 2010
2:34 pm

How about this? We let everyone cheat on all standardized tests. Our scores are terrific. We look great to the powers that be. No investigating. Lots of congratulations. Then, let’s let teachers really teach subjects they are trained to teach. We make school less stressful for everyone and I’ll bet we will have more students becoming successful adults.

Scott D

February 15th, 2010
2:35 pm

It’s all George W Bush’s fault.

After all it was his “No Child Left Behind” Federal Legislation that created this testing and the punitive consequences of not achieving minimum advancement criteria.

Teachers are not to be held accountable for any reason ever. Don’t you understand?

The State of Georgia has the worst educational environment in the Nation for nearly two decades running. WE WILL NOT UPSET THAT APPLECART!

John Konop

February 15th, 2010
2:41 pm

I challenge anyone to watch this video about the crazy Kathy Cox curriculum and than you will see why we have a cheating scandal!

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr1qee-bTZI

[...] According to my colleague Jim Gallow over at Political Insider: [...]

T. Price

February 15th, 2010
3:29 pm

Re: “video about the crazy Kathy Cox curriculum”

The video referenced was done by a TV weather meteorologist in Washington State with no mention of Georgia or Cox.

(I didn’t realize that Kathy Cox was also the State Superintendent of Schools in that WA state too.)

Steeerike Two.

Happy Teacher

February 15th, 2010
3:31 pm

How does a bad curriculum or an unpopular test allow for cheating or a lack of accountability for teachers?

Echo

February 15th, 2010
3:52 pm

@ Woodrow…these organizations you referenced offer nothing substantial to their members. There are lots of groups that lobby the legislature…they also are not UNIONS. My “friendly local PTA” doesn’t even exist; so no they don’t help me at all. NEA (which in 13 years I have NEVER met a Georgia teacher who was a member), GAE, PAGE, and MACE do not offer any services that I couldn’t get from a decent attorney. They sure as hell don’t negotiate my contract or else I wouldn’t have been furloughed this year!

UGA1954

February 15th, 2010
7:12 pm

You cheat, you’re fired! No pension and no certificate so you can’t move on like a locust and do the same thing in another state. These people should set examples and follow rules, not break them. You cheat, you’re fired — and you can hope some fast food place is hiring.

Emory Texan

February 16th, 2010
10:03 am

IT should absolutely be a crime, IMO. They are negatively impacting kids lives, and to simply fire someone for that is basically turning a blind eye. Think of it this way, a bad teacher has two options: Wait until the school sees the bad scores and fires you or try to doctor the bad scores and maybe keep your job, maybe get fired. Without heavier consequences, this incentive structure pushes teachers towards cheating. This is prob only a drop in the bucket for all the issues we have with our public school system, though. Between bureaucracy, unions, corruption and mismanagement, the system is 100% BROKEN – not just here, all over the US. The biggest shame is that the one true pilot program for vouchers – which has been WILDLY successful for students across all income levels – in DC is getting the ax by our President. People want drastic improvement but are afraid to actually get in there and do what needs to be done.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

[...] Monday, it was Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of [...]

[...] According to my colleague Jim Gallow over at Political Insider: [...]