Teachers Pressured to Change Student Results to Increase School Ranking

Over one-third of Chicago public high school teachers say they have been pressured to change student grades at some point in their careers in order to improve school results.

Over 20 per cent reported that they succumbed to the pressure at some point. Nearly 20% of teachers had been pressured to change student grades in 2008-09 and 14% said that they had changed grades in response to the pressure.

The pressure was greatest in the senior years of high school, where 55% said that they had been pressured to make changes at some point and 31% said they had changed scores. Over 30% of grade 9-12 teachers said they had been requested to change scores in the last year and 20% said they had changed the scores.

Some 5% of teachers said that someone had changed their students’ grades in 2008-09 without the teacher’s permission or notifying the teacher of the changes. Seven per cent of teachers in grades 9-12 reported this occurring.

These findings were obtained from a survey of more than 1,200 Chicago teachers conducted by the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Sun-Times and published by the newspaper.

Teachers reported that most of the pressure to change grades came from principals and assistant principals. Over half of all teachers who had pressure exerted on them said that it was by principals.

The most pressure was on the most inexperienced teachers. Those with only 0-3 years experience reporting the greatest incidence of pressure. Nearly one in four of these teachers came under pressure to change scores compared to about one in nine of teachers with over ten years experience.

The survey findings indicate that a significant amount of the data used to judge Chicago public schools has been inflated and artificially manipulated.

Several teachers commented in the survey that changing student grades to improve school results is now built into the high school system. “It’s in the culture of the schools,’’ wrote one experienced high school teacher.

Deborah Stipek, dean of Stanford University’s School of Education, told the Sun-Times that the survey “tells you what we all know—that high-stakes pressures on schools don’t necessarily result in increased quality of education’’ and that they can produce “a lot of game-playing and efforts to look good.”

Trevor Cobbold

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