A long time ago there was a public service announcement that showed a car with the keys in the ignition and a boy looking in and then stealing the car. The voice over said, "take your keys, don't make a good boy go bad.". At the time my thought was, a good boy would not steal the car, keys or not. And I questioned why the driver was to blame for the boy's lack of character.
Now comes high stakes testing. And the question is, does high stakes testing make good people go bad? Have we created a new criminal class with high stakes testing?
A court case is finally wrapping up in Atlanta Georgia. It is one of the longest running criminal cases in Georgia history. The crime is that 12 teachers and school administrators are accused of cheating on the Georgia State tests. Since multiple educators have participated, the prosecutor has chosen to try them on charges of criminal conspiracy. Other educators have turned state's witness and received a deal in sentencing and have agreed to testify against the others. Because of the charge against the teachers they could receive as much as twenty years!! Really! Have they no rapists in Georgia, have they no murderers? Why would a criminal justice system spend this much energy on test cheaters? Makes one wonder if this will become a new class of felons. All those educators going bad.
Don't believe me. Look at what is happening in New Jersey and Maryland. In those states, students have posted test questions from the PARCC tests on Twitter and Instagram. There are great opportunities for these postings to go national since they are posted on social media. In the past, when kids copied questions from paper tests the spread was rather limited. But these tests are online so it is not difficult for the tech savvy kids to scan/copy and post. It is not just kids down the school hallway who will get the questions but across the country as well. How do we know the kids are doing this? Well it turns out that Pearson, the company that is selling the PARCC tests, scans the internet for this type of behavior. The company is able to not only find the posting but pinpoint the location of the postings and the names of the students who have done this. Parents are complaining that the free speech of their children is being monitored by a for-profit company. Discussions about the consequences for these students range from criminal prosecution for copyright violation to school suspension. Maybe these kids will have a felony record before they get out of school. They can be the first of this new class of felons. Is testing making these kids go bad?
The Maryland legislature has just passed a bill that if agreed to by a joint conference would require the state to investigate whether or not Maryland should continue to require these tests. We already know that these tests do not improve the educational product; we have a thirty-year record to show that. Now it seems they are producing a new criminal class. Does testing make a good person go bad? Or was the person a cheat from the beginning?