NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tests Drive Teachers To Cheat

July 13, 2000

Several school districts have recently caught teachers and administrators cheating or helping their students cheat. One case was broken when students told their parents of the cheating. These incidents show cheating is a problem in both cities and suburbs. Here are a few examples:

  • Suburban Potomac, Maryland, elementary school fifth-graders were given answers, told to change their answers, and given extra time to complete a standardized test by the school's principal and teachers.
  • State officials in Columbus, Ohio, are investigating charges of cheating by teachers at a school recently praised by President Clinton for raising test scores -- whereas students say the teachers gave them the right answers.
  • Four dozen teachers and administrators from 30 schools in New York City are accused of urging their students to cheat on standardized tests.
  • The Austin, Texas, school district was indicted for criminal tampering for excluding low performing students from standardized testing in order to raise the overall test scores. To avoid a trial the Austin district accepted a settlement that allows it to defer prosecution provided it takes specific corrective actions and proves its compliance.

Despite these disturbing stories, opponents of testing argue that the tests and incentives, not the teachers, are the problem. Because their jobs are tied to student achievement, says author Peter Sacks, teachers' cheating is just the "fallout from...placing too much emphasis on standardized tests."

Other education analysts warn that the problem is not the testing, but the teachers. Most professions base advancement on achievement and progress; raises and promotions are given based on a person's performance. These experts wonder why teaching should be treated differently.

Source: Barbara Kantrowitz and Daniel McGinn, "When Teachers are Cheaters," and Evan Thomas and Pat Wingert, "Bitter Lessons," Newsweek, June 19, 2000.


Browse more articles on Education Issues