Reactions to my recent Education Week commentary on the Atlanta cheating scandal have been interesting (see also this Washington Post blog post by Valerie Strauss that highlights my commentary). They mostly relate to the question I raised, whether the system is to blame or whether individuals, even when faced with strong pressure and incentives for opportunistic behavior, should act morally and legally. And, of course, several of the commentaries rehearse the somewhat well known criticisms of testing.
As best I can tell though, readers didn’t take up the issue I mentioned regarding the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, which apparently improved during Beverly Hall’s tenure in Atlanta. If student performance was really getting better, then there was arguably less reason to engage in the alleged tampering. We won’t know whether the people accused of the cheating considered any of this, or indeed if most of them knew about the NAEP results in the first place. Meanwhile, suspicions have been raised about whether there had also been mischief in the NAEP sampling and scoring. For an especially lucid analysis of the NAEP results and how they relate to the Atlanta situation, I refer you to this excellent article by our friend Marshall (Mike) Smith, former Under Secretary of Education and Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education.
April 15, 2013