Monday, September 29, 2008

Cheating Is Cheating

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 12:33 AM

It’s hard to understand how Jefferson Parish School Board member Judy Colgan can continue to support a proposal that is so clearly wrong. She initiated a system in which Jefferson Parish reroutes standardized test scores of students in advanced studies schools to conventional schools in their home districts despite the fact that they don’t attend those schools.

Her argument is that the advanced studies schools are draining regular schools of their brightest students and places the home district schools in peril of not meeting state standards of performance. The practice also has been adopted by East Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes. So far the rerouting practice hasn’t helped the overall scores of the home district schools that much, just a point or two here and there, but that’s not the point.

Standardized test scores are meant to pinpoint problems and achievements among schools. Cheating to mask the real scores is not helpful to students, especially those in schools that need to improve. Lower scores signal that more innovative teaching techniques need to be employed, along with programs to fight truancy and drop out rates.

For a school board member to say cheating is OK because it serves a greater purpose is like a student saying he or she cheated on a test because he or she needed a better grade. It sets a bad example and is counter to what the whole school accountability structure is trying to achieve.

For Colgan to say she will continue to support the practice as being more fair to the home district schools is a sham. It appears to be a strategy to hide potential problems in order not to lose funding or to avoid being taken over by the state as opposed to solving academic problems and, in the long run, better prepare students for a successful future.

It also gives the impression that the school board is opposed to advanced studies schools that can give high-performing students a chance to excel in their areas of proficiency. It’s an us-against-them attitude that is not in the best interests of the students of any of those schools.

All of our children deserve access to a good education. Instead of devising plans to doctor the numbers, the school board should be researching how other school districts have met the challenge with educational tools and techniques that cater to the needs of students in particular schools. Parents, and the community as a whole, should demand that. 

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