Assessment

N.Y.C. Union Report Blasts Cheating Probe

By Karla Scoon Reid — January 10, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A 1999 probe that found more than 50 New York City educators had helped students cheat on tests was “flawed, unreliable, and unfair,” according to a union-commissioned investigation of the allegations.

The United Federation of Teachers, the 140,000-member union which represents the city’s teachers, hired a private firm run by a former assistant district attorney to evaluate the fairness and accuracy of the cheating report. The special commissioner of investigation for the New York City schools prepared that report (“N.Y.C. Probe Levels Test-Cheating Charges,” Dec. 15, 1999.)

The union-hired investigator maintains that critical exculpatory evidence was ignored, that children were questioned without parental permission, and that many of the teachers involved were never interviewed. His report, released last month, says that while the city’s schools are vulnerable to cheating, there is little evidence that a systemwide problem exists as was alleged in the first report.

For More Information

The investigator’s report, “Setting the Record Straight: Anatomy of a Failed Investigation,” is available from the United Federation of Teachers. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“I was very surprised at the extraordinary lapse of fairness and thoroughness in the investigation, compounded by significant overstatements and misstatements in the report itself,” said Thomas D. Thacher II, the president of Thacher Associates, a New York City-based management and investigative-services firm.

But Edward F. Stancik, the watchdog official who conducted the original review of cheating in city schools, called the UFT’s own 140-page report biased and incomplete.

In his report, Mr. Stancik found that before an exam, some teachers gave students questions that appeared on the test. In other instances, he found, adults did the children’s work.

While he acknowledged that his investigation had interviewed one child without parental consent, Mr. Stancik said that the union report had quoted him selectively and had exaggerated his findings. He asserted that the union had simply hired a firm to contradict and undermine his review of educator-assisted cheating.

“They did what they accused me of doing,” he said. “They went out to poke holes into the report.”

‘Branded as Cheaters’

Mr. Thacher denied that the teachers’ union influenced his firm’s probe. Randi Weingarten, the president of the UFT, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said the union had requested its own investigation because the original report included broad and overreaching allegations.

“They branded all these people as cheaters,” Ms. Weingarten said. “To do that to a teacher who spends her life helping kids ... it’s a horrible thing to do.”

Still, Mr. Thacher said that there was evidence of cheating in some situations, but not in others. He said some teachers used old standardized tests for practice, which contained questions that they did not realize would be recycled and used on the new test.

Students who had said that teachers told them to change answers were addressing work they did on practice tests, he said.

Mr. Thacher’s findings led the union to ask state, city, and school board officials to evaluate the special investigator’s office, which is independent of the school system and the city government.

“No one is above the law, and nobody should misuse their power,” Ms. Weingarten said, adding that the union has supported the special commissioner’s office in the past. “There has to be some checks and balances.”

After the union called for the board of education to re-examine the educators’ cases, Harold O. Levy, the chancellor of the 1.1 million-student district, asked his staff to review the UFT report. It is unclear when or if he will make recommendations following that review.

In a second report that will be released this spring, Mr. Thacher will make recommendations intended to ensure the integrity of the testing process. Mr. Thacher said that the district has no clear rules for testing and that the guidelines that do exist aren’t communicated to teachers.

Mr. Stancik, however, believes the union is being disingenuous about its efforts to curb cheating.

In his report, Mr. Stancik recommended that up to nine educators be fired and that the rest receive other strong disciplinary action. He said no educator identified in his investigation had been cleared of all wrongdoing.

The union claimed that 17 educators resigned, retired or were fired. At least two fired educators were reinstated after employment hearings.

“UFT can stick its head in the sand if it wants,” he said. “Cheating is a problem here.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2001 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C. Union Report Blasts Cheating Probe

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Webinar
Praise for Improvement: Supporting Student Behavior through Positive Feedback and Interventions
Discover how PBIS teams and educators use evidence-based practices for student success.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Opinion What the Digital SAT Will Mean for Students and Educators
The college-admissions test will be fully digital by 2024. Priscilla Rodriguez from the College Board discusses the change.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Assessment Opinion Searching for Common Ground: What Makes a Good Test?
Rick Hess and USC Dean Pedro Noguera discuss standardized testing—what it’s for, where it’s gone wrong, and how to improve it.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Assessment Spotlight Spotlight on Assessment in 2022
This Spotlight will help you understand how to use assessment data to guide student learning and examine the debate over standardized tests.
Assessment State Test Results Are In. Are They Useless?
While states, districts, and schools pore over data from spring 2021 tests, experts urge caution over how to interpret and use the results.
9 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 file photo, a sign is seen at the entrance to a hall for a college test preparation class in Bethesda, Md. The $380 million test coaching industry is facing competition from free or low-cost alternatives in what their founders hope will make the process of applying to college more equitable. Such innovations are also raising questions about the relevance and the fairness of relying on standardized tests in admissions process.
A sign is posted at the entrance to a hall for a test-preparation class. Assessment experts say educators should use data from spring 2021 tests with caution.
Alex Brandon/AP