SCHULER: “I think it would basically be naive to not mention the possibility of cheating or gaming,” Schuler said. “I think we’ve been pretty fair that it’s in the mix, we can’t quantify it. ... I think what we reported is very measured.”
BOARD MEMBER SOTELO: “If you can’t [prove it], don’t make those assertions. Because now you are taking away the credit of all the hard work of all the teachers...”Outgoing Chicago Public Schools IG Nicholas Schuler is probably well-intentioned as he hassles with the CPS board about possible test "cheating." He's sharp on issues of security but clueless about the real role of high-stakes, standardized testing. And like all teachers, principals, and CPS board members themselves, he's caught up in a toxic system that misuses tests as a weapon for tracking and sorting children and for penalizing schools and teachers for the students that they teach.
Testing madness has once again moved to center-stage in Chicago's school reform debate, driven in recent years by national policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Its corrosive and divisive effects are revealed in the current battle. The cost to cash-starved school systems like CPS, can't be measured in just payments to profit-hungry testing, security and textbook companies, but in teaching time wasted in test prep as well.
The Sun-Times reports:
Nearly every one of the board’s seven members peppered CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler with questions about his office’s investigation that found “unusual patterns” and “irregularities” in some test results. He told board members they would be “naive” to think his findings didn’t include attempts to game testing procedures.
But the core of the debate between Schuler’s office and CPS is whether using the word “cheating” was appropriate in a report that didn’t necessarily substantiate any concrete examples of wrongdoing.While the board tweaks CPS’s highest-stakes NWEA test for its reliability and validity, Schuler claims he's convinced that teachers, who are being evaluated on the basis of student test scores, are cheating to protect their jobs. He offers no evidence. But being an IG has made him sensitive to the imagined evil that lurks in the minds of teachers and administrators. He's like the cop who sees everyone on the street as a potential perp.
Board members are right to challenge him on this. I would think that the CTU should be standing right with them.
One of his recommendations is that teachers, whose own performance ratings partially depend on the results of the NWEA, shouldn’t be the test monitors. That's exactly where he's wrong. Curriculum and assessment rightfully belong in the domain of educators, not cops, politicians or inspectors.
When testing is high-stakes, tests no longer measure what they were intended to measure. But so far, neither side is talking about eliminating high-stakes, standardized testing completely and making testing a teaching/learning tool, a part of every teacher's repertoire, to assess how well students are progressing, free from punishment and reward.
Finally, a missing component in this current debate is the thousands of parents and students who shook the system's testing foundation with their "Opt-Out" movement four years ago. It's needed now, more than ever.