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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
29 Oct 2014
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Dishonest Educators

Comment

Nearly two years ago, U.S. News & World Report came out with a story titled "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal." It reported that "for 10 years, hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers and principals changed answers on state tests in one of the largest cheating scandals in U.S. history." More than three-quarters of the 56 Atlanta schools investigated had cheated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, sometimes called the national report card. Cheating orders came from school administrators and included brazen acts such as teachers reading answers aloud during the test and erasing incorrect answers. One teacher told a colleague, "I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they're dumb as hell." Atlanta's not alone. There have been investigations, reports and charges of teacher-assisted cheating in other cities, such as Philadelphia, Houston, New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington.

Recently, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's blog carried a story titled "A new cheating scandal: Aspiring teachers hiring ringers." According to the story, for at least 15 years, teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee paid Clarence Mumford, who's now under indictment, between $1,500 and $3,000 to send someone else to take their Praxis exam, which is used for K-12 teacher certification in 40 states. Sandra Stotsky, an education professor at the University of Arkansas, said, "(Praxis I) is an easy test for anyone who has completed high school but has nothing to do with college-level ability or scores." She added, "The test is far too undemanding for a prospective teacher. ... The fact that these people hired somebody to take an easy test of their skills suggests that these prospective teachers were probably so academically weak it is questionable whether they would have been suitable teachers."

Here's a practice Praxis I math question: Which of the following is equal to a quarter-million — 40,000, 250,000, 2,500,000, 1/4,000,000 or 4/1,000,000? The test taker is asked to click on the correct answer.

A practice writing skills question is to identify the error in the following sentence: "The club members agreed that each would contribute ten days of voluntary work annually each year at the local hospital." The test taker is supposed to point out that "annually each year" is redundant.

CNN broke this cheating story last July, but the story hasn't gotten much national press since then. In an article for NewsBusters, titled "Months-Old, Three-State Teacher Certification Test Cheating Scandal Gets Major AP Story — on a Slow News Weekend" (11/25/12), Tom Blumer quotes speculation by the blog "educationrealist": "I will be extremely surprised if it does not turn out that most if not all of the teachers who bought themselves a test grade are black. (I am also betting that the actual testers are white, but am not as certain. It just seems that if black people were taking the test and guaranteeing passage, the fees would be higher.)"

There's some basis in fact for the speculation that it's mostly black teachers buying grades, and that includes former Steelers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who's been indicted for fraud. According to a study titled "Differences in Passing Rates on Praxis I Tests by Race/Ethnicity Group" (March 2011), the percentages of blacks who passed the Praxis I reading, writing and mathematics tests on their first try were 41, 44 and 37, respectively. For white test takers, the respective percentages were 82, 80 and 78.

This test-taking fraud is merely the tip of a much larger iceberg. It highlights the educational fraud being perpetrated on blacks during their K-12 education. Four or five years of college — even majoring in education, an undemanding subject — cannot make up for those 13 years of rotten education. Then they're given a college degree that is fraudulent, seeing as some have difficulty passing a test that shouldn't be challenging to even a 12th-grader. Here's my question: If they manage to get through the mockery of teacher certification, at what schools do you think they will teach?

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

4 Comments | Post Comment
I teach at a southeastern university where it is common knowledge (and statistically proven) that the students in the teacher education programs are generally those with the lowest SAT/ACT scores. What is that expression: "garbage in, garbage out." Yes, there are exceptions, and plenty of good, bright people become teachers,, but--as noted--those are the exceptions.
I often sit during my lunch break in the food concession area of the teacher education programs building on campus, and the level of discourse I overhear among teacher education undergraduates reinforces the aforementioned common knowledge and statistics.
So, I wonder, what is the solution?
Comment: #1
Posted by: RTDavis
Mon Jan 7, 2013 1:17 PM
RTD - the solution is to end the government monopoly on education. What you see in your school of education and in public schools is no different than what you see in any gov't-enforced monopoly, be it the Post Office today, or the telephone company of a few decades ago. Inevitably, the purpose of the institution becomes a jobs program. Unfortunately today's public schools are first and foremost a jobs (and retirement) program for the people in the system. Because there is no competition, there is little, if any, incentive to produce results, therefore little, if any, incentive to hire people actually skilled at educating, therefore little, if any, incentive on the part of schools of education to expect any reasonable level of education from their students (i.e., our children's future teachers).
Comment: #2
Posted by: andre
Mon Jan 7, 2013 4:34 PM
It's worse than you think. I've written a book, "Why Johnny Can't Read, Write, or do 'Rithmetic Even With A College Degree" detailing just how bad it is. For example, you can get a graduate degree in "Math Education" without knowing any better than high school math (the degree program has no math courses in it, and you need not have a math degree to get into the program)...these people are not just teaching high school math, they're teaching in the colleges as well.

As part of research for my book I also took an 8000 level "Educational Research Methods" course, for doctoral candidates in Education Administration, with the answers to the only statistics questions (less than a single homework assignment in courses I teach) provided online...I detail in my book how ridiculous it is, although I work for people with Ph.D.s from this program. My book also details some of the stunningly bad "research" they use to justify changes in college courses (less, less, always less, of course).

I started teaching at the college level in 1989, and the "Remedial Math" course I taught then is now called "College Algebra" today, although it now has less material, less even than my 10th grade algebra course.

I can't get a publisher to look at my book, although I document what I have to say.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Doom
Mon Jan 7, 2013 10:10 PM
What a wide and large question: "At what schools do you think they [these bogus teachers] will teach?" To what extent will their character [these bogus teachers] rub off on our children, the future citizenry of our country? And, ultimately, what are WE robbing our children of by not stopping these bogus "teachers" from nearing themselves to our schools, let alone our classrooms and our innocent and impressionable students?

I realize this is going to sound both a bit Helen Keller-ish and a stretch for many to even perceive, yet I offer this consideration only as example in lieu of current tests like Praxis. Louvain University in Brussels, Belguim, has both an entrance and exit examination for undergraduate and graduate students. For undergraduates it's written, and for
graduate students it's both written and oral, and the exam consists not only of subject matter, but three additional qualities or attributes: "Care" for the persons to be served in the profession chosen; "Belief" in the profession; and absolute acknowledgement of what "professionalism" means and how it is enacted in that field.

Now I'd bet most of us can define professionalism specifically a thousand ways, and all would be right. Yet, I heard the height of professionalism defined at Louvain like this: When we do our work so well that the people we serve don't know if it's our job...or our nature.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Ernest Martinez
Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:45 PM
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