Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Good Reasons Why I Should Cheat (and 1 Very Good Reason that I Won't)

10.) I should cheat because it would be beneficial to my career.
Test scores matter. There's not a lot of ways to climb the ladder as a teacher, but to whatever you look toward in the education world right now, there is no question that test scores are the ticket.
9.) I should cheat so my school district doesn't face penalties.
My school district is a high performing district without cheating (to my knowledge), but the dirty little secret most people don't know about NCLB is that without 100% proficiency every public school district in the country will face penalties in the next few years. Actually, my school district is already facing some (despite the fact that almost every school is rated excelling, the highest possible rating). Somehow we're technically a failing district with only highly performing or excelling schools--yeah, I don't get it either. The trouble we faced is that our test scores were initially high. We had to improve an already stellar record at prescribed incriments pressing on toward the 100% goal. I believe we started with a proficiency rate over 80%. Meaning, we should almost be at 100% by this point. If we had started at 40% our goal might be a more reasonable 70% at this point. In any case, we're facing penalties and barring a miracle (or wide scale cheating) we will face more.
8.) I should cheat so the kids see an A+ over their school every morning.
It's all about the kids, right? Next year, in this state all schools will be given a letter grade instead of a label. That letter grade will be posted in giant letters over the school. I get it that this is aimed to punish staff and not students, but what message do you suppose we are sending to the students walking into the "F" schools every day? My school is not really going to get an "F", but I do see why cheating to avoid that might be smart.
7.) I should cheat to keep my job.
Okay, technically not yet, but in two years 50-80% of my evaluation will be based entirely on test scores. Sometimes third graders don't understand the gravity of the test for them, much less me. So yeah, with lay offs every year, a good evaluation seems like a strong incentive to cheat.
6.) I should cheat to even the playing field.
Our state Math test is all reading. For a third grader with a reading disablity this makes them appear much worse at Math then they are. For a third grader, with limited English ability this makes them appear less than they are. Maybe I should just even it out and help them out.
5.)I should cheat so I don't have to teach to the test.
Let's be honest, in third grade we have to do a lot of test prep. Just the idea of a bubble sheet is foreign to them. My first year teaching third grade, I saw a little boy drawing a picture on his bubble sheet in an area that said, "do not write here." "What are you doing," I said exasperated, "It says, 'Do Not Write Here'!"
"I know," he responded, "but I'm not writing, I'm drawing!"
My point is that these kids don't know how to test so thoroughly and I have to spend a lot of time teaching them how. In some sick way, I might actually be able to teach more if I was going to cheat my way through testing.
4.) I should cheat to get a little more money.
Let's face it, being a teacher does not make you rich. Cheating at being a teacher would not make you rich either, but part of our pay is technically linked to test scores, so especially if they started falling, I would have a small financial incentive to cheat.
3.) I should cheat to be seen as a good teacher.
It seems like a pretty strong definition of "good" teacher is having good test scores. Cheating would lead to good test scores.
2.) I should cheat to take the pressure off.
I am not seriously going to cheat, but this would be the strongest incentive. I, like most teachers I know, was a very strong student. I got top marks on all tests. It's a lot harder to get top marks when you're not the one testing. I've never had testing anxiety and I have it now when I give my students tests. Test anxiety is the number one reason I've seen students cheat, and I believe it is probably why teachers do as well.
1.) I should cheat because I can.
This is kind of a non-reason, but I think it would be easy to cheat. There are not a lot of preventative measures in place around here. We have to turn in tests on time, but as far as I know, scores aren't being monitored or audited for suspicious trends. It would theory be easy to catch cheaters, but there is not much being done to attempt it.

I wouldn't cheat because it is wrong. However fed up I get with education, I will, personally, not cheat because I think allowing me to be a teacher is a sacred trust and I won't break that.

In looking at what is going on in Atlanta, and has gone on in Chicago and other places, I realize that I probably know or have known teachers who cheat. If they do cheat, and it is proven, then they broke the trust described above and should be fired--just like students who cheat should be punished. However, measures should be put in place to outweigh some of the incentives above. I don't think this cheating problem can be solved reactively. We need to be proactive. It also makes me wonder how honest our honest discussions on accountability measures really are. If some of the examples they hold up for us have cheating involved, are the things suggested really working?

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