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How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools whose students consistently fail standardized tests can now be closed. To protect their jobs, teachers and principals are now under intense pressure to cheat, to cheat on test scores and report cards to cheat parents and school administrators.
How do public schools mislead parents? Joel Turtel, author of the new book, “Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children,” lists some of the ways public schools can “cheat”:
1. Poor students are excluded or discouraged from taking the tests.
2. Teachers assign tests as homework or teach test items in class.
3. Test security is minimal or even non-existent.
4. Students have more time than prescribed by the test regulations.
5. Unrealistic and highly unlikely improvements from one test to another are not audited or investigated.
6. Teachers and administrators are not punished for flagrant violations of testing procedures.
7. Test results are specified in ways that exaggerate levels of achievement.
(from Myron Lieberman’s book, “Public Education: An Autopsy”)
In December 1999, a special investigation of New York City schools revealed that two principals and dozens of teachers and teaching assistants were helping students cheat on standardized math and reading tests.
Andrew J. Coulson, in his brilliant book, “Market Education: The Unknown History,” cites an example of how public schools deliberately lie to parents about their children’s academic abilities:
“Consistently greeted with A’s and B’s on their children’s report cards, parents at Zavala Elementary School had wallowed in complacency, believing that both the school and its students were performing well. Indeed, Zavala was one of the worst schools in the district. , and its students ranked at the bottom of standardized tests statewide. When a new principal took over and demanded that scores be read from all l ‘been at a PTA meeting, parents were dismayed by their children’s abysmal showing and outraged at teachers and school officials for cheating them with inflated grades.”
In 1992, the scientific journal Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice published the results of a national survey on teacher cheating. Janie Hall and Paul Kleine, the authors of the report, asked 2,256 public school teachers, principals, superintendents and testing proctors if their colleagues cheated on tests. Forty-four percent of respondents said yes. Additionally, 55 percent of teachers surveyed said they were aware that many of their colleagues changed student answers, taught specific parts of tests before tests, and gave advice to students during tests. Today, the pressure on teachers and principals to cheat is even greater because of the No Child Left Behind Act.
In 1990, three academics, Harold Stevenson, Chuansheng Chen, and David Uttal conducted a study of the attitudes and academic performance of black, white, and Hispanic children in Chicago. They found a disturbing gap between what parents thought their children were learning and the children’s actual performance. Teachers in high-poverty schools had given students A’s for work that would have earned them C’s or D’s in affluent suburban schools.
In the study, black mothers of elementary school students in Chicago rated their children’s skills and abilities quite high and thought their children were doing well in reading and math. The children thought the same. Unfortunately, the researchers found that parents’ and children’s self-assessments of their math and reading skills were far above their actual achievement levels.
There was a wide gap between their optimistic self-assessments and their dismal academic performance on independent tests. Public schools were giving these children a false idea of their academic ability levels. In other words, these kids were headed for failure and no one bothered to tell them.
Parents would be unwise to trust any claims made by teachers or school authorities about their children’s supposed academic abilities, even in so-called “good” schools in suburban neighborhoods. Parents should have an independent outside company test their child’s reading and math skills to find out how their child is really doing. If parents find that their child’s academic abilities are far below what the local public school led them to believe, they may want to remove their child from the public school and seek better educational alternatives.
The Resources section under “Public Schools, Public Threat” shows parents many excellent and low-cost educational options for their children, including new private Internet schools, learning software just for kids, and education at home. Turtel’s book and website, http://www.mykidsdeservebetter.com, also include many reading and math test companies that parents can use to determine their children’s true reading and math abilities.
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