Teacher Competency Tests

This story grabbed my attention a few months ago.

A Georgia grand jury indicted 35 educators for a massive cheating scheme in Atlanta public schools which allegedly involved a former superintendent, Beverly Hall, and as many as 178 teachers.   CNN.com reported on March 29:  “Among those also indicted were four of Hall’s executive administrators, six principals, two assistant principals, six testing coordinators, 14 teachers, a school improvement specialist and a school secretary. ”   Standardized test answers were changed to improve overall scores.

Stories like this make me despair of our country’s moral fiber, but a more positive response is anger.  Every student and parent in the Atlanta school system should be fighting mad because they have been cheated by their teachers and school administrators who were more interested in their own objectives than that of their charges.

A scandal so large leads you to wonder where else this could be happening.  Sure enough, “Teaching How to Cheat,” in Thefreelibrary.com says,  “A September 19, 2011, ProPublica story titled  ‘ “America’s Most Outrageous Teacher Cheating Scandals” ‘ describes serious student testing irregularities at both the grade and high school level occurring in eight states and the District of Columbia.”

Some might remember a 2001 scandal that involved 52 teachers from five states who each paid $1,000 for a ringer to write their teacher’s competency exam.  I think these scandals are related even though they are a dozen years apart.  The less competent a teacher, the more he or she might feel tempted to fudge a student’s results.

In our district, I do not have the slightest reason to think anything but the best of our teachers and their ethics, but it did start me thinking about what’s involved in teacher certification in New Hampshire and the nature of those competency exams.  New Hampshire accepts teacher certification from many other states, something that’s called certification reciprocity.  Since photo ID is now required to write the competency exams, this isn’t as alarming as it once would have been. What did unsettle me was learning that New Hampshire allows teachers to qualify for certification if they fail one of the three competency exams in reading, writing and math so long as their composite score is equal to a passing score on all three.  In other words, a teacher could be a dunce in math but a star in writing and still become a certified teacher.  (Candidates must also pass a subject specific competency test for their subject area.)

Here’s a survey of teacher competency test requirements among 11 states as of 2010. http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/rpt/2010-R-0420.htm

Meanwhile, there has been some heartening news in our district.

  • NECAP scores have rallied, a cause for guarded optimism.
  • Dr. Metzler has announced that SAU personnel will no longer be getting an across-the-board raise every year and instead raises will be based on job performance.
  • The SAU board has announced the ‘nomination’ of Dr. Roxanne Wilson for Assistant Superintendent.  She is currently the Director of Pupil Personnel Services.

May the sacrifice of many soldiers past and present be in our thoughts this Memorial Day weekend. We know all too well there is no cheating death.

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Filed under Assistant Superintendent Search, School Board Issues

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