Wednesday December 3, 2008
A report in the New York Post this week has revealed that the New York City Department of Education has been rorting its own school reporting system to ensure that schools achieve a higher grade.
The report is a further blow to the integrity and credibility of a reporting system that Federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, has been touting as a model for Australia.
According to The Post, more than 60 principals were urged to keep surveys rating their schools away from “toxic” students who might bring the results down. The surveys, completed by more than 800,000 students, parents and teachers last spring, account for 10 percent of a school’s A-through-F letter grade this school year.
A poor rating can be used to justify the removal of a principal or the closing of a school in the new high-stakes era of accountability ushered in by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Among the “suggestions” in the document, posted online by a Department of Education Director, was to “keep the surveys away from toxic person(s),” taken to mean troubled students. Principals were also advised to have school staff help parents not only with translating a survey, but with “filling it out,” and to urge students and teachers to complete the surveys following “fun” events. Another suggestion was that principals boost return rates by making the surveys mandatory homework assignments.
Parents in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan told The Post of allegations that principals falsely warned that their schools would lose money if the surveys were unfavourable and that staff had guided -and even changed – answers on the anonymous forms.
These revelations come on top of several allegations of cheating by teachers and administrators in New York City schools by helping students during tests or changing test sheets. For example, earlier this year seventeen teachers at a Staten Island high school claimed that school administrators ordered them to increase scores on the high school Regents exam.
The new revelations from New York City are a harbinger of what can be expected in Australia under the Rudd Government’s plans to introduce reporting of school results.
Cheating and other ways of manipulating test results are inevitable features of ‘high stakes’ testing regimes, where school reputation is dependent on achieving a high ranking. Cheating and rorting test results is an easy way to achieve better school performance.