Did Obama Administration Pressure Teachers Into Cheating?

Jul 11, 2011 by

M. Catharine Evans and Ann Kane – A week ago Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down with MSNBC’S Andrea Mitchell to discuss the need for educational reform. In the interview Duncan touted

“some states and some districts that in these tough economic times are being very creative and doing some really innovative things, others are paralyzed…”

Since then investigations into two school districts, Baltimore and Atlanta, have confirmed widespread cheating on standardized tests occurring under Duncan’s watch. “Creative” and “innovative” might not be synonymous with “cheating” but a July, 2009 Washington Post article featuring a video interview with President Obama raises some very serious questions about the administration’s role in the latest school scandals.

The former CEO of Chicago Public schools blitzed across the country back in 2009 flush with billions of dollars in stimulus monies. The $4.3 billion allocated to Duncan’s ‘Race to the Top’ program was used as leverage to lure school districts to “embrace reform or risk being shut out.” President Obama made it clear to the Washington Post reporters in 2009 he wished to go beyond just closing the achievement gap through yearly testing proposed in George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

We want to challenge all the stakeholders — parents, teachers, unions, school administrators — to not only raise standards, but make the changes that are required to actually meet those standards, by having the best teachers and principals, by having the kind of data collection that tells us whether improvements are actually happening, and tying student achievement to assessments of teachers.

What we’re saying here is, if you can’t decide to change these practices, we’re not going to use precious dollars that we want to see creating better results; we’re not going to send those dollars there…And we’re counting on the fact that, ultimately, this is an incentive, this is a challenge for people who do want to change.

Secretary Duncan carried the President’s message from state to state in a “pressure campaign” to broaden the federal government’s role in local legislatures. Michael Shear and Nick Anderson of the Post described the administration’s tactics in persuading school districts to get with the program or else.

President Obama is leaning hard on the nation’s schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid — and the threat of withholding it — to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers. [snip]

Obama says the money will be distributed to states that can demonstrate results backed by data that show student scores and teacher performance are improving. [snip]

Some are wary of the long arm from Washington. A Tennessee newspaper editorial railed against an “inappropriate threat” from federal officials. [snip]

Other states are maneuvering for advantage, too. The Colorado legislature passed three laws this year [2009] aimed at aligning state and federal goals on turning around low-performing schools, linking teacher and student data …

When Shear/Anderson reminded the President that no other administration had provided so much money to an educational program without



restrictions, Obama responded that “the proof of the pudding is…in the quality of the competition that’s been set up.”

via Blog: Did Obama Administration Pressure Teachers Into Cheating?.

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