Do as We Say, Not as We Do
Teachers and administrators should be outraged. We certainly are.
Federal prosecutors in Memphis this week indicted 14 people, mostly educators, for their alleged efforts to cheat on teacher certification tests in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The tests, called Praxis Exams, are used to qualify teachers for classroom teaching assignments, and test-takers supposedly paid a former Memphis educator to arrange test-takers to pass the exams for them. Prosecutors say that the cheating ring has been operating since 1995.
And to make matters worse, the tests are not hard. As Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality at the Washington-based Education Trust, told The New York Times, "These are pretty basic tests.
"The fact that there were folks who felt like they needed to bring somebody else in in order to meet a very basic level of content knowledge is disturbing, in particular for the kids those teachers are going to wind up teaching."
The indictments came just days after the Josephson Institute of Ethics released its biennial survey of student behavior, reporting that fewer teenagers were cheating; 51 percent of students reported cheating on an exam versus 59 percent in 2010; and 55 percent of teenagers said they lied to teacher, down from 61 percent in 2010.
It was the first time in more than a decade that the survey showed a decline in cheating, lying and stealing by teenagers. (Josephson sponsors character education programs.)
It is a sad reflection when it is "good news" that only half of students report they cheat. It is hard to make this revelation an observation on the glass being half-full. Though the Josephson report has a glimmer of good news, most other reports of student behavior are chilling, with the increased use of technology blurring students' already dim understanding of what constitutes cheating.
The amount of plagiarism, copying and unauthorized help from parents continues to climb. A startling insight from the studies on academic dishonesty is that the overwhelming majority of students (and parents) have never seen school policies on cheating.
The Nashville Metro Schools policy on academic dishonesty is: "MNPS expects all students to abide by ethical academic standards. Academic dishonesty - including plagiarism, cheating or copying the work of another, using technology for illicit purposes, or any unauthorized communication between students for the purpose of gaining advantage during an examination - is strictly prohibited.
"This provision covers all school- related tests, quizzes, reports, class assignments and projects, both in and out of class.
"The determination that a student has engaged in academic dishonesty shall be based on specific evidence provided by the classroom teacher or other supervising professional employee, taking into consideration written materials, observation, or information from others. Students found to have engaged in academic dishonesty may be subject to an academic penalty." (Grading Procedures, page 10)
Academic dishonesty from students is deplorable, but cheating by teachers is despicable.
It breeds the worst kind of hypocrisy, and undermines our confidence in the system.
Frank Daniels III, part owner of The Pilot and cousin of Pilot Publisher David Woronoff, is the community engagement editor of The Nashville Tennessean. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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