How can teachers avoid the practice of inflating test scores?

In a recent article, a former college professor and policy analyst found that many District of Columbia teachers practiced inflating test scores for otherwise failing students. The practice is not unique to the District of Columbia. Teachers can avoid the necessity for inflating test scores by implementing pre and post testing to ensure that students successfully pass classroom assessments.

According to the article, District of Columbia teachers utilized the process for inflating test scores across the school district. This practice was found acceptable in several schools and treated as an issue that necessitated no further discussion of teachers involved. The premise of the practice involves passing students to either ensure that during the next year they do not have an opportunity to attend the class facilitated by the teacher who inflated the test scores. Another thought for many teachers is that inflating test scores will provide the students higher economic opportunities because they graduate from school with a diploma. Additionally, the practice increases the graduation rate for the school and school district which over time places a positive image on the school.

Why would a school culture in a high poverty school readily accept the practice of inflating test scores?

Job Security

Inflating test scores can provide job security for many teachers. Since the teachers are judged for the students that they teach via teacher evaluations it make a teacher look proficient when students are able to pass their class. Tenured teachers will not have as difficult time a non-tenured teachers. Both non-tenured and tenured teachers may find additional classroom visitations from administrators. After several observations administrators may provide improvement feedback, schedule additional support, or provide the teacher with a less than favorable evaluation. Non-tenured teachers could be faced with termination of employment.

Reduction of Racial Allegations

Inflating test scores may reduce the perception of teacher discrimination which can lead to racial allegations. Real teacher discrimination against Black students by stereotyping according to ethnicity. White teachers have more negative attitudes toward Black children and rate Black students more negatively when compared to White students. White teachers rate Black male children more deviant compared to White children. White teachers direct more criticism toward Black males and rate Black male children personalities more negatively when compared to White male children. White teachers perceive White students more positively when compared to Black students. European American teachers favor other students rather than Black students. European Americans have favorable attitudes toward Mexican Americans compared to Blacks and are more likely to accept Mexican Americans compared to Blacks due to Mexican Americans having a closer skin color to European Americans.

Black and White teachers have perceptions of students based on their race. Black and White teachers perceive White girls more positively White boys, Black boys, and Black girls. Compared to White teachers, Black teachers perceive Black girls more negatively. White teachers perceive Black boys more negatively when compared to Black teachers.

Ensures Teacher Safety

Inflating test scores will ensure teacher safety by guaranteeing that there are no reprisals from students or parents for failing academic courses. The American Psychological Association reported that 80 percent of 3,000 surveyed K – 12 teachers reported that they were victimized at least once at school. Approximately 50% of the teachers reported that they experienced harassment from students. Harassment can include obscene gestures, verbal threats and intimidation and obscene remarks. About twenty-five percent of the respondents had experienced physical attacks.

Instead of inflating test scores students can gain higher levels of achievement by teaching children to have great success in the classroom. This will include the following steps:

  1. Design the unit assessment
  2. Pre-test the students using the unit assessment
  3. Design all lesson plans to ensure that students will successfully negotiate through the final assessment
  4. Have students to compare their pre and post test scores

Inflating test scores will provide students with a sense of security that is neither productive nor realistic.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.