Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Huge Elementary School Cheating Scandal in A Large American City

One of the big issues and concerns in American education these days is the fact that White (Caucasian) and Asian young people score much higher on standardized tests than Black and Latino young people.  The SAT is the most important standardized test that American students take - it is taken when they are juniors or seniors in high school (17 or 18 years old).  The SAT results often help determine whether a student will be accepted at the school of his/her choice.

Here is an interesting article about the performance of the different races in America on the SAT:

There are two different theories now as to how to solve this problem and to help Black and Latino students to do better in school.

One theory is based on the findings of the Coleman Report of 1966.  http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88-ColemanReport.html

In this amazing report, the sociologist James Coleman showed that the poorer a child was, the worse the child's neighborhood was and the less stable his/her family life was, the more poorly he/she would do in school compared to students who did not suffer from economic, familial or social disadvantages.

How well a student does in school depends on the type of background a student comes from.

Coleman's argument was that if we want to have equality of educational opportunity in America, we need to help build strong families, safe neighborhoods and provide economic opportunities for everyone.  Basically Coleman said you could build the best schools and staff them with the best teachers possible, but if the students are coming from "bad" or "difficult" backgrounds, they will not benefit from their schools.

The other theory is based on the argument that really good teachers can make a difference. If teachers are given excellent training and work very hard, even very poor students from terrible neighborhoods will learn and they can leave their terrible neighborhoods for better lives.

The US government believes in the second theory.  The government believes in better teacher training and they believe that teachers need to work harder and better to "save" their students. And, therefore, the US government has put a great deal of pressure on principals, teachers and schools to show high standardized test scores.  Indeed, if schools do not perform well, principals and teachers can be punished and lose their jobs.

So has this approach worked?  No. Not at all.  Indeed, this approach has only lead, apparently, to massive cheating so that teachers do not lose their jobs and schools do not close down.  Many school administrators, for instance, were recently arrested in Atlanta for a huge cheating scandal.  If it was happening there, it has probably been happening in many other places in America.  The funny thing is that the NY Times article makes it seem that these people cheated to make money from bonuses (money paid for extraordinary achievement). No.  I am pretty sure they cheated to save their jobs.

Basically, city administrators in Atlanta were altering standardized test scores of huge numbers of students in order to make it seem as if students in Atlanta were doing better than they were.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a chief - a leader, a boss

to be indicted - to be arrested by the police and told by a judge that you will have to come to court for a trial. (pronounced: in DITE id ---> it is not pronounced the way it is spelled).

corrupt - not honest

a launderer - someone who makes money illegally and hides the source of the money he/she gets

a racketeer - someone who uses force to make money illegally and who works for an organized crime group

to turn state's evidence - to help the state to catch a criminal; to cooperate with prosecutors of the state to catch a criminal; to testify (speak) in court in support of the state in regard to putting a criminal in jail

to flip - in this case, to flip someone is to get the person to stop cooperating with a criminal and to get the person to cooperate with the state;  you can "flip" a coin, you can flip over a piece of paper

a witness - someone who has seen something and who will testify about this in court

widespread - all over the place

state testing - every student in a state is usually given one type of test to see how each student in the state is doing

to erase - to turn your pencil over and use the part that can remove pencil marks; to remove something

a hidden wire - a secret listening device

a grand jury - this is a group of citizens which decides whether there is enough evidence for a person to have to go through a trial or not.

conspiracy - when a group secretly works together to accomplish a secret and often illegal goal

a bond - money a person pays to stay out of jail while he waits for trial

to outperform - to do better than others on something

suburban - a little community outside of a major city

a performance bonus - extra money you receive if you do really well at your job

a prosecutor - a lawyer who works for the state to try to show that a criminal is guilty

too good to be true - the results just couldn't be possible - the results are too perfect

to retaliate against whistle blowers - to retaliate against someone means to get revenge or to harm someone; a whistle blower is someone who reports something that is wrong.  It's as if he/she points at something wrong and blows a whistle to draw attention to it.

to bolster - to increase, to strengthen

to be vindicated - to be found to be right; to be discovered to be innocent while others believed the person to be guilty

a single-minded purpose - a strong purpose; the only purpose a person cares about

to dare to do something - to do something you don't feel you should do, but kind of want to do

subordinates - a person who works for you is a subordinate

meeting targets - reaching goals

to confess - to tell the truth about something

to be stonewalled - to be stopped from making progress; like running into a stone wall

it weighed so heavily on her - it was too much for her to live with; it bothered her psychologically

to repent - to feel sorry for something, to declare you are sorry for something and to change and become a better person

to clear my conscience - your conscience is the little voice inside of you which tells you what is right or wrong. Don't confuse conscience (pronounced: kon shince) with conscious.  If you are conscious, you are aware or awake.  Conscience is a noun.  Conscious is an adjective.

tenure - if you are a tenured teacher, your job is protected; it is difficult to get fired

prevalent - all over the place; everywhere

proficient - good at something; meeting basic standards

deficient/deficiency - not good enough; not meeting standards

to skew - to mess up the statistics; if a bell curve is skewed, it leans  further to one side than it should

a diagnosis - a diagnosis is a prediction of what's wrong

remedial - a remedial education class is a class that helps students who have fallen behind in their work or who need further work

a subpoena - a document that forces a person to appear in court to be a witness

center stage - right in the middle of someplace; the focus of everyone's attention

mind-boggling - outrageous or really really bizarre - to boggle the mind means to confuse the mind

dysfunction - when something doesn't work right

shunted aside to the bleachers - pushed aside to sit in the cheap seats

aloof - not friendly; alone, alienated

entrepreneurship - an entrepreneur is a businessperson, entrepreneurship is the practice or ability of entrepreneurs

dumbfounded - really shocked and confused

accountability - responsibility

1)  Which approach is better: better teachers or better lives?

2)  Do you think this cheating scandal was caused by pressure from the US government, or is this another type of corruption?

3)  Why do you think there is such a huge gap between the scores of White/Asian and Black/Latino students?
Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.  

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at djg51qu@gmail.com and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P




No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.