Wednesday, June 17, 2015

British schools are cheating in exams to boost their league table position

Schools are cheating the exam system to boost their league table performance, investigators have found.  Teachers have altered exam answers, inflated GCSE marks and even told pupils to copy coursework from textbooks.

Whistleblowers told Channel 4’s Dispatches programme that the practice is well known but few teachers will speak out as they fear for their careers.

One headmaster who was caught altering Sats papers said he was later told by another head: ‘The only thing you did wrong was you got caught.’

In 2013, 37 state primary schools had Sats results annulled for maladministration and there were 511 reports of alleged cheating.

Education author Warwick Mansell told the programme: ‘I think it is a bigger problem than many people are aware of.’

In one case, King’s Farm school in Gravesend, Kent, allowed a child to rewrite answers after an exam finished.

Evidence also suggested that the youngest children at King’s Farm were marked down in order to show better academic progress later on.

Kent County Council confirmed it had found evidence of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and a new leadership team was in place.

And Portslade Aldridge Community Academy in Brighton signed pupils off the school roll so it could boost its headline exam results. The school admitted it had ‘wrongly’ moved 12 pupils to guest status before GCSE exams.

In one secondary school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, teachers told pupils to copy coursework from a textbook. Another teacher revealed she was encouraged to give pupils grades they did not deserve.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We trust the professionalism of teachers to administer the Key Stage 2 tests according to the published guidance, and it is essential that the integrity and security of these tests is maintained.’


Walker's Budget Makes Important Education Reforms

Wisconsin is moving closer to repealing Common Core

As Scott Walker tours the country on his campaign for the presidency, he has not forsaken his state, turning in a budget that would make important reforms in education policy. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to analyze the budget in full - it contains rather more spending and borrowing than most conservatives would like - but in the area of education reform it takes some pretty important steps forward.

Most importantly, the budget would prohibit the State Superintendent, a vocal proponent of Common Core, from advertising or promoting the standards to local school districts. This is important because, while school districts in Wisconsin are permitted to opt out of the standards, few have done so as a result from pressure from the Department of Public Instruction. Walker’s budget would relieve that pressure, and allow schools to determine their own destiny. Last July, Walker came out strong against the standards, saying “Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The reason most of the districts have adopted Common Core standards is because the statewide mandated tests are aligned with them. Walker’s budget calls for new tests, which would make it easier for schools to opt out without fearing failure on the tests.

In other parts of the budget, Republicans in the state legislature are taking education proposals farther than Walker originally intended. These include lifting caps on the number of school vouchers in the state and expanding the opportunity to open independent charter schools.

Not everything the legislature did was an improvement, though, with the rejection of some large spending cuts that would contribute towards balancing the state’s budget. After the amendment process is complete, the legislature will have to vote on the two-year budget and resubmit it to Gov. Walker for his signature.

These state-level reforms come just as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new bill, under the name The Every Child Achieves Act, would maintain federal testing mandates, but would also forbid the Department of Education from incentivizing or coercing states into adopting Common Core or similar standards. This would free up states like Wisconsin to ditch Common Core for good without having to worry about losing funding as a result. Until now, this has been the biggest hurdle for many states who would like to lose the standards, but feel unable to due to pressure from the federal government.


Australia: Victoria's quest to be the Education State

The Victorian government is on a quest to be the 'education state'. Two discussion papers were released this week to generate community interest and feedback. The discussion paper on schools is not lengthy but it is revealing.

It reiterates the Victorian government's decision not to commit to the full term of the six year funding agreement signed with the previous Labor federal government - the so-called 'Gonski' funding package. Only the four years to 2017 will be funded; a new funding model is being developed for 2018 and beyond. While this decision has attracted criticism from the NSW education minister and some of the members of the Gonski review committee, there are good reasons for it. First among them is the recognition that committing future governments to a very large increase in the school education budget is not defensible. In addition, the existing model can be improved, so locking it in for six years would be inadvisable. Funding for disadvantaged and struggling students can and should be targeted more effectively.

Importantly, the document also reveals the Victorian government's commitment to autonomy and choice in schools. Its case studies demonstrate what can be achieved when schools have flexibility to use their resources to maximise educational impact ­­­- for example, electing to have slightly larger class sizes to free teachers for mentoring and feedback. It speaks of striving for excellence in all schools, 'ensuring that all schools are schools of choice'. Teaching is rightly a focus in the document, but perhaps the most glaring omission is the lack of attention to principals and school leadership.

Federal systems of government are often frustrating, but they are also useful. States can be like 'policy laboratories' - if they are successful, other states can replicate their reforms. If they fail, only one state is affected rather than the whole country. The Victorian government's approach to school education is in many respects quite different to that in other states and territories. No state has it entirely right, but there is a lot to like about Victoria's approach.


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