The mandates of NCLB, President George W. Bush's program of No Child Left Behind, have been roundly castigated but not seriously challenged by any state although the pressures of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 have been a burden for almost a decade on educators and students, as they should be, a burden in the sense of greater emphasis on actually educating children.
In some districts, because of NCLB, salary raises and sometimes tenure are predicated on teacher-and administrative-performance determined through student scores on standardized tests.
Apparently, some teachers-and administrators-have succumbed under the pressure.
In an education scandal at Normandy Crossing Elementary School outside Houston, Texas, teachers and administrators were forced to resign after a district investigation found that they had tampered with a standardized state examination: [http://tiny.cc/6u77l]
Similar tampering and fudging have been found in at least half a dozen states as schools struggle to comply with state mandates and states check to ensure that compliance.
It's no wonder many educators regard NCLB with disfavor but that federal law simply codifies what Americans expect of their teachers and of the educational system. In a word that expectation is results.
In previous, pre-teacher union and National Education Association times, those results were fairly obvious in what many people believed was the greatest educational system in the world and its product, literate graduates who could read, cipher, and think on a relatively high level.
Those levels even prevailed in what are now called inner cities, those same locales that now graduate less than half of their students.
It's said that the pressure is really on teachers now but if that's the case what pressures caused teachers to cheat on student tests pre-NCLB?
I can attest to personal experiences in which Special-Education teachers not only gave their students answers to tests and quizzes during the year but also gave them the answers to final exams.
In one instance, a 10th grade girl asked me to re-administer a test since she felt guilty that her Special-Education teacher had told her all the answers.
She passed the re-testing, on her own, with a grade in the high seventies, as contrasted with her 95% on the first try, and was delighted she had passed without assistance.
(Special-Ed kids are routinely removed from their regular classes during exams and Special-Ed teachers administer those tests, often reading every question to the students and giving them whatever time they needed to complete the tests.)
In another example, and this was a dozen years ago in a New York public school, a Special-Ed kid cried when I asked her if she had received too special help on a final examination and she then admitted that she and her teacher had cheated.
At one point in time, only a few generations ago, teachers were the pick of the crop, people content with low salaries who were committed to educating children. Today we have as teachers people from the low end of the stratum who are committed to high salaries and some who believe their pupils are at best semi-relevant.
Cheating on tests is among the least of the problems with America's teachers and with American education in 2010. Far more important are the issues of consciously dumbing down of curriculum, watering down of expectations, and inflating grades.
Those factors are producing students with diplomas and minimal education.
All too frequently they emerge into a highly competitive world with a piece of paper in their hands, a great sense of self esteem in their hearts, and a pile of mush in their brains. It's nothing short of educational malfeasance.