Cheat Sheet

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In December, New York City’s Special Commissioner of Investigation Edward Stancik issued a report accusing 52 educators at 32 schools in the city of helping students cheat on standardized tests. Methods ranged from correcting student answers before they were entered on the official "bubble sheet" to flat-out giving kids answers. Stancik estimates that more than 1,000 tests were affected. Educators, especially principals, have a lot riding on these tests: In New York, test scores determine in part how principals fare on their annual reviews, and schools with poor scores could be closed. Here’s how the cheating worked at one elementary school, according to the report:

Staff members cooperating with the investigation pointed fingers at administrative assistant Anna Bird,* dean Gene Moore, and testing coordinator Ellen Thompson as the directors of the plan. Most of the sources explained that principal Robert Smith never directly asked an employee to cheat, yet he suggested that teachers needed to do everything possible to "guarantee" test scores. However, according to assistant principal Bill Wattenberg, Smith said that he would "avoid the SURR [Schools Under Registration Review are put on a state watch list for possible closure] at all costs." Moreover, according to teacher Sally Cohen, Anna Bird told her not to worry about being caught because "[Smith] told us to do it," and they would not be in trouble. Furthermore, according to other sources, while the principal never publicly advocated the plan, he supplied subtle pressure to comply with it, focusing in particular on those educators who had little, if any, job security. Those who refused to participate in the cheating scheme were later assigned to "problem" classes or to kindergarten through 2nd grade where children were not tested. Those who complied received after-school positions and extra preparation periods outside the classroom.

*All names have been changed

Vol. 11, Issue 5, Page 49

Published in Print: February 1, 2000, as Cheat Sheet
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