Too good to be true

The Education Week website recently published an article describing allegations of cheating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams in a number of schools in Philadelphia.  Similar to stories from other districts, including Atlanta and Washington, D.C., the allegations state that principals and/or teachers were involved in changing student test sheets after they were handed in, in order to change wrong answers to correct ones. In the case of Atlanta, the allegations have been found to be true, while the Washington and Philadelphia incidents are still under investigation.

The likely purpose behind this form of cheating is to increase the performance of schools, which under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act passed in 2002 (as the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is measured based largely on the performance of students on state curricular framework tests.  Under the original NCLB statute, schools had to achieve a standard, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, toward the legislation’s goal of 100% of students achieving proficiency on the state tests by the year 2014.  There has been much controversy around the heavy-handed use of student test scores not just for assessing students, but also for measuring school and even teacher performance (the latter of which I wrote about in an early blog post).  In response to some of these concerns, the Obama administration has allowed states to apply for a waiver for complying with the requirements of NCLB, as long as they come up with an alternative plan for improving student performance in schools and assessing school performance.

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A non-tweeting dean’s response to #AMAhighered

new-twitter-logoThis week I gave a keynote address at the American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education.  The meeting in New Orleans had approximately 1,000 attendees, most of whom were marketing and communications professionals in colleges and universities, the remainder largely representatives of firms that sell marketing services and products to higher education institutions.  The organizers were encouraging attendees to tweet throughout the conference, and one of the sponsors was offering a prize to tweeters (though it wasn’t clear whether the prize was going to the most prolific tweeter, the most salient, or perhaps the luckiest).

My talk was the luncheon keynote, and the lunch was a Thanksgiving meal – just what every after-lunch speaker wants, a large dose of tryptophan delivered to the audience.  I joked to the person introducing me that they might as well have put a football game on the large screens flanking the stage, that way everyone could have just gone to sleep.  But undaunted, I embarked on my talk titled, “Higher Education Under Attack: Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Us and How Should We Respond?”  While I have given a number of keynotes in the past, and I’m sure throughout some of the recent ones people were tweeting, this is the first time that there was active encouragement of tweeting.

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More bad news for Penn State

penn-state-nittany-lion-crying-w500x352Last summer, I wrote a post about the Freeh Report, the investigative report commissioned by the Board of Trustees of Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  The report painted a damning portrait of the leadership of the university and the steps those leaders took to conceal the child abuse perpetrated by Sandusky.  I wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education when the report was released, outlining my disappointment with what had transpired.

This past week, word came out of Harrisburg of the indictment of former Penn State President Graham Spanier, on eight charges, including five felonies.  The felony charges include obstruction of justice, perjury, and conspiracy, all related to Spanier’s part in the active covering up of Sandusky’s abuse of children that was allegedly reported to Spanier in 1998 and 2001.

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