“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered I’ve seen lots of funny men; Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen” –Woody Guthrie.
In the least surprising education story of the year, the New York Times reports that cheating is increasing as the stakes grow higher on standardized tests. Cue sounds of earnest clucking and charges of sloppy journalism. There’s a bigger and better cheating story to be told and it goes far beyond tales of individual or even school-wide mendacity. Lower cut scores, scoring rubrics that award generous and undeserved partial credit, and dumbed down tests are cheating too. So is using these debased metrics to create an illusion of proficiency or progress where none exists. One doesn’t need to be cyncial to wonder if the real story isn’t who is cheating, but rather who isn’t?
Every year — EVERY year — that I taught fifth grade, I had students in my classroom who had tested on grade level the previous year who added and subtracted on their fingers and struggled to retell details from even simple stories. Was someone cheating? Maybe. Was someone cheated? Definitely.