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Steven D. Levitt (2006) says that just about anyone cheats if they got their interest in it. Cannot argue with that. Some might deny and say I don’t cheat no matter what the stakes are. But, then they might recall moments when they at least attempted cheating, let’s say in a board game or when they looked up an answer in Google to solve a crossword puzzle. Levitt (2006) gives a simple definition for this feature of human nature: “getting more for less” (p.21). Again it is not only the financial directors, bankers, politicians or sportsmen who cheat.
It is a high-school graduate, worried about not passing the standardized test (for example, UNT) or not getting a state grant, who finds a sophisticated way to cheat during the exam. Well, it is a thing about schoolchildren, right? They start to think about the most effective way to cheat once they hear a word “test” because they want a good grade. However, one more actor has an incentive to cheat as well. A teacher. A teacher who is worried about a class or school ratings and possible positive or negative consequences depending on the results of testing.
The introduction of high-stakes testing, where the stakes are high not only because tests measure students’ progress, but because schools are accountable for their performance, created a reason to cheat for teachers in the USA. There, if the whole school would score low on the testing then it would be at risk of shutting down with its staff dismissed or reassigned. Individual teachers whose students perform poorly could be fired. However, there is also a positive side where successful educators get promotion or bonuses from the state government. Thus, it is not surprising that some teachers would somehow try to adulterate the scores and be reinforced by another incentive: people do not consider that teachers could possibly cheat.
A more recent example happened in 2015: 11 Atlanta public school teachers were sentenced for “essentially making copies, erasing pencil marks on paper, and filling in different bubbles” (“Atlanta teacher”, 2015). This is an instance of outrageous and brazen cheating. But there are much more occurrences of teachers’ cheating that might have less severe consequences than falsification of the results. To name a few: giving extra time for completing a test, teaching strategies to pass the test, teaching specifically for the test topics, giving students answers in advance or simply “ignoring” students’ cheating.
All of these happens because of the education system that is focused on the test scores, rather than on the education itself. Teachers are victims of the “testocracy” and the system does not leave much choice. Yet, maybe some teachers need to focus on a good teaching, not a good cheating.
Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2006). Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything.
Singer. (2015, April 3). Atlanta Teacher RICO Conviction Is Blood Sacrifice to the Testocracy. Retrieved from https://www.laprogressive.com/atlanta-teachers-cheating-scandal/