High Stakes Testing in Schools: Who’s Cheating Whom?

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Black Agenda Report

High Stakes Testing in Schools: Who’s Cheating Whom?

Corporate school privatizers feign disgust with teachers that cheat the standardized tests. But big business theft of public education is by far the greater sin.

The school privatizers now headquartered in the Obama administration are all pitching a morality fit over teachers that cheat by altering answers on standardized tests. Corporate privatizers, of course, have no real sense of morality beyond profit and loss: their own profit, and to hell with those that lose. But, when attacking institutions so historically revered as public education and the teaching profession, one must play dirty. You’ve got to get them on a morals charge.

The assault on public schools began with the blanket assertion that teachers – or, more precisely, teachers unions – are out for themselves; that they are sinfully selfish. Strange words, from the lips of corporate executives and free marketeers who preach that the highest virtues are revealed in the cutthroat corridors of commerce. Then again, pots and kettles are always calling everybody else black.

So, they slimed the teachers as the root of all that ails public education, teachers whose moral deficits could be corrected by rigorous competition regulated by standardized testing of students. If the students failed the tests, then the teachers would fail and be discharged, and the schools they worked in would also fail, and be replaced by privatized charters. High stakes testing was designed as a Trojan Horse for a corporate educational takeover, but packaged as a public good. Bad teachers and bad schools would come to a well-deserved bad end.

This morality play was always based on a lie. The standardized tests were bombs, designed to explode the public schools and the teaching profession. Everyone involved knew that inner city kids would fail the tests in huge numbers, setting the infernal machine in motion for the closing of schools and the wholesale firing of teachers. In their place would be recruited a new workforce that would either view teaching as a temporary job or cut every other teacher's throat in order to stay – neither of which redounds to the benefit of students or anyone else but the bosses. This is the substance of education “reform” in the Age of Obama.

“Everyone involved knew that inner city kids would fail the tests in huge numbers, setting the infernal machine in motion for the closing of schools and the wholesale firing of teachers.”

Faced with extinction of their jobs and their very profession, and with a teacher’s learned certainty that many of their students would be pushed into marginality by the testing juggernaut, teachers turned to cheating the test. They have been caught and shamed and may face prosecution in Atlanta and Philadelphia and elsewhere, but cheating the test surely occurs in virtually every inner city. I don’t think it’s cheating, in a moral sense, at all. The cheats are those that pushed high stakes testing under the false pretexts of reform, when the actual goal was union busting and privatization. Teachers are fighting for their lives, and all of us would cheat death, if we could.

The school privatizers are determined, not just to bust the teachers unions, but to remake teachers as corporate citizens. A schools superintendent in New Jersey said part of the difficulty for teachers under the new order is that they “are more concerned about relationships than about achieving more than one another.” When he gives teachers awards, he says, they won't display them because “they don't want to outshine one another.” His teachers would rather collaborate and cooperate to achieve a common goal. And that's why they've got to change, or go.

Glen Ford

Back Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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