Stop Cheating By Educators

It would be nice to believe that while West Virginia public schools lag behind on many measures of achievement, we’re at least honest about evaluating ourselves.

That may not be realistic throughout the state.

A cheating scandal in Atlanta has grabbed headlines during recent months. There, 35 educators have been indicted for altering students’ answers on standardized tests. Even former school district Superintendent Beverly Hall, the National Superintendent of the Year in 2009, has been charged.

Just across the Ohio River, cheating of another kind has been widespread. There, several districts, including the one serving Columbus, altered student attendance records to make schools look like they were doing a better job than actually was the case.

Now comes a report that the Lincoln County, W.Va. school system may have fired a teacher who tried to blow the whistle on standardized test cheating.

There are scores of ways for educators to cheat in efforts to make their schools – and themselves – look better. They range from what happened in Atlanta to giving teachers and students previews of questions on standardized tests. They include lying about attendance rates, even encouraging low-performing students to drop out of school.

Cheating is widespread, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. It has released a list of 37 states and the District of Columbia in which it says cheating has been confirmed during the past four years. The center’s list gives no details – but it includes at least one alleged situation in West Virginia.

The overwhelming majority of public school teachers and administrators are honest men and women who would never dream of lying to protect or advance their careers. It is a disservice to them, not to mention children and taxpayers, when some educators are dishonest.

State Board of Education officials should look into the Lincoln County claim. So should law enforcement – perhaps the State Police.

Legislators should give serious thought to an independent watchdog mechanism of some sort. In Ohio, state Auditor Dave Yost has exposed school districts that knowingly submitted false data to the state.

Cheating in public schools should not be tolerated, especially if it involves the very educators who hand out Fs to students caught doing it.