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How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children

Under the "No Child Left Behind Act," public schools whose students consistently fail standardized tests can now be shut down. To protect their jobs, teachers and principals are now under intense pressure to cheat - to fudge test scores and report cards to fool parents and school administrators.

How do public schools deceive parents? Joel Turtel, author of the new book, "Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children," lists some of the ways public schools can "cheat":

1. Poor students are excluded or discouraged from taking the tests.

2. Teachers assign tests as homework or teach test items in class.

3. Test security is minimal or even nonexistent.

4. Students are allowed more time than prescribed by test regulations.

5. Unrealistic, highly improbable improvements from test to test are not audited or investigated.

6. Teachers and administrators are not punished for flagrant violations of test procedures.

7. Test results are reported in ways that exaggerate achievement levels. (from Myron Lieberman's book, "Public Education: An Autopsy")

In December 1999, a special investigation of New York City schools revealed that two principals and dozens of teachers and assistant teachers were helping students cheat on standardized math and reading tests.

Andrew J. Coulson, in his brilliant book, "Market Education: The Unknown History," cites an example of how public schools deliberately lie to parents about their children's academic abilities:

"Consistently greeted by A's and B's on their children's report cards, the parents of Zavala Elementary School had been lulled into complacency, believing that both the school and its students were performing well. In fact, Zavala was one of the worst schools in the district, and its students ranked near the bottom on statewide standardized tests. When a new principal took over the helm and requested that the statewide scores be read out at a PTA meeting, parents were dismayed by their children's abysmal showing, and furious with teachers and school officials for misleading them with inflated grades."

In 1992, the scholarly journal Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice published the results of a national survey about teacher cheating. Janie Hall and Paul Kleine, the authors of the report, asked 2256 public-school teachers, principals, superintendents, and testing supervisors if their colleagues cheated on tests. Forty-four percent of those questioned answered yes. Also, 55 percent of the teachers surveyed said they were aware that many of their fellow teachers changed students' answers, taught specific parts of tests prior to the tests, and gave students hints during tests. Today, the pressure for teachers and principals to cheat is even greater because of the No Child Left Behind Act.

In 1990, three academics, Harold Stevenson, Chuansheng Chen, and David Uttal did a study of the attitudes and academic achievement of black, white, and hispanic children in Chicago. They found a disturbing gap between what parents thought their children were learning and the children's actual performance. Teachers in high-poverty schools had given A's to students for work that would have earned them C's or D's in affluent suburban schools.

In the study, black mothers of Chicago elementary school students rated their child's skills and abilities quite high and thought their kids were doing well in reading and math. The children thought the same thing. Unfortunately, the researchers found that the parents' and children's self-evaluations of their math and reading skills were way above their actual achievement levels.

There was a big gap between their optimistic self-evaluations and their dismal academic performance on independent tests. Public schools were giving these children a false idea of their academic skill levels. In other words, these children were heading towards failure and no one bothered to tell them.

Parents would not be wise to trust any claims by teachers or school authorities about their children's alleged academic abilities, even in so-called "good" schools in suburban neighborhoods. Parents should have an outside independent company test their child's reading and math skills to find out how their child is really doing. If parents find that their child's academic skills are far below what their local public school led them to believe, they might want to take their child out of public school and look for better education alternatives.

The Resources section in "Public Schools, Public Menace" shows parents many excellent, low-cost education options for their kids, such as the new Internet private schools, learning computer software just for kids, and home-schooling. Turtel's book and website, www.mykidsdeservebetter.com, also list many reading and math-skill testing companies parents can use to determine their children's true reading and math abilities.

Joel Turtel is an education policy analyst, and author of "Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie To Parents and Betray Our Children." Contact Information: Website: http://www.mykidsdeservebetter.com, Email: lbooksusa@aol.com, Phone: 718-447-7348, Article Copyrighted ? 2005 by Joel Turtel, NOTE: You may post this Article on an Ezine, newsletter, or other website only if you include Joel Turtel's complete contact information, and set up a hyperlink to Joel Turtel's email address and website URL, http://www.mykidsdeservebetter.com.

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