Missouri Teachers Caught Helping Students Cheat

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Missouri Teachers Caught Helping Students Cheat

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received more than 100 reports of standardized testing problems, including teachers who encouraged cheating, in 2010 and 2011 — but the department has no plans to use the tools already at its disposal to root out further test fraud.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest: National Center for Fair and Open Testing, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “If you don’t look, you don’t find. You are void of embarrassment by not asking tough questions.” It looks like Missouri education officials agree. Though the state has ready access to effective tools that would help detect testing abuses, it relies on an unreliable self-reporting system, in which school districts must contact the state when abuses are discovered. And although No Child Left Behind requires states to perform accountability checks to ensure fair testing, Missouri dismantled its accountability program in 2010, citing budget concerns.

It’s likely that teacher-sponsored cheating is more widespread than Missouri’s self-reporting system indicates. Reported incidents include one fifth-grade class in which students were called out of class to redo parts of a science test, three teachers who violated state policy when they looked through a fourth-grade test and created a study guide for student use, and a student who started a make-up math test only to find the answers already filled in for him.

Some districts report that an atmosphere of intimidation means many problems probably go unreported. At Herzog Elementary School, three teachers were referred to as “devils” after they reported several abuses to Superintendent Kelvin Adams. School staff also protested the report by wearing the same color in solidarity against the teachers.

Missouri spends $8.4 million annually on its state assessment program, which was developed about 20 years ago to help the Missouri Board of Education measure student progress and accredit school districts. It’s estimated that the department would only need to spend $20,000-$50,000 a year to proactively root out cheating with effective statistical analyses, but officials say the cost is too high.