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Study General Teaching to the test
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Teaching to the test
I cheated in High School. It was the norm. That's not justification, but it's true. In every tier, from standard classes to the advanced, cheating was the norm. Not everyone cheated of course, but a lot of people did. By my own estimations I'd say only 1% of students make it through graduation without ever cheating, not once.

We would cheat on homework, on tests, and classwork. Less-so on papers where plagiarism of course wasn't tolerated and harder to get away with. In one elaborate case my friend was one more failing test grade away from failing the class for the year and having to take it again. His classroom was set up in rows facing the front. The teacher handed out the test by giving a stack of 5 or so to each student in the front row who would then take one and pass it back. My friend was in the back row with a compatriot directly in front of him. His compatriot kept two tests and my friend in the back raised his hand to say he didn't get one. The teacher dutifully obliged her nearly-failing student my friend began working on the test on his own. The two conspirators sat in a row all the way to left of the classroom, right next to the row of windows. When the teacher was distracted the student with the second test threw it out the window. Another of one my friends was waiting below and grabbed the falling papers. This friend, an ace in math who had already taken whatever class they were in, took the test to the bathroom and easily completed the problem set. At a prearranged time my friend in the class met my friend in the bathroom who passed along the completed test. Back in the classroom the two conspirators copied the answers in their own scrawl and got rid of the evidence. My friend successfully passed the course.

As far as creativity that's A+. I told this story first of all because it's a great story of cheating, but also to illustrate the massive amounts of cheating in high schools. When I got to college and began picking my own classes and shaping my own education I let the cheating melt into the past. I didn't want to cheat, I learned to want to learn and do well on my own merits. The problem in high schools though, is we aren't taught to learn for the sake of learning. We are taught for the tests and for the grades and for the highest SAT scores all to get into the best colleges. High school was a game because we saw it as a game. We could do just as well as the kids trying their very hardest without doing any work at all. We could skip classes and get high and still compete with them to get into the Ivy league schools. Tests, tests, tests, tests. That's all we learned in high school. The classes were shaped and organized by the test calendar. We would slack off, slack off, slack off, get the grade they wanted out of us, and continue to slack off.

The AP classes were the biggest jokes of all. You can't cheat on those. But the teachers don't even try to hide the fact that their entire curriculum is based on the test at the very end of the school year. After the test there is a month left before school ends. My senior year I was in 5 AP classes through which I did minimal work the whole way. After we took the test all 5 classes ended and the teachers didn't try to hide the mass of nothingness that followed the test. But AP classes aren't jokes because of that. They are jokes because they don't amount to anything. They bring schools credit with the state. They don't prepare us for college even though they are supposedly designed to be college level classes. They aren't, they are still high school tests. If they didn't teach to the test maybe they would be college level. A bit of a paradox.

The system needs an overhaul. I don't know how it should be done. All I know is The National Honor Society is filled with cheating students. The schools overlook this because they only care about the grades their students get which amounts to money. That's money the teachers don't get unless their students get the grades. Students are being overlooked. Can we please fix this?
Quite a story.

I wonder what it takes for people to break out of this -- both teachers and students. I've had friends at large public universities where cheating is pretty much assumed to be rampant; professors take extreme measures to curb cheating in large lecture classes, and there are always armies of TAs wandering the aisles. On the other hand, friends at small schools with honor codes have a radically different experience.

I do think people rise to what is expected of them. At the same time what should one expect the professors at large universities to do? There simply isn't time in a semester to form the sort of personal bond with 400 students which ensures that an expectation of morality will have some leverage.
This has to be a universal problem.

The solution is to instill a love of learning and knowledge at a very early age and keep the flame burning throughout the learning process.

The problem with that 'solution' is how? In many early learning societies there is the culture of them (the teachers) and us (the students). Every class has its complement of clever little so-and-sos who play on that culture and do their best to undermine the teaching / learning process and many students and teachers become frustrated and swamped in the rituals of test learning, a teacher response to unrelenting negative pressure from students.

A multifaceted approach is needed. One facet is classroom discipline - if a child is disruptive deal with him/her separately from non disruptive students. I don't mean that in a negative sense - the disruptive child probably has a problem with the system or with his home or his peers. That child needs to have those issues addressed. Another facet is to train teachers properly - and to motivate them properly, so they can instill a love of learning in their students as well as pass on the practical knowledge needed to pass tests. To do this they need a love of learning themselves. Still another facet is to stop treating students as if they are juvenile delinquents, by definition beyond redemption. Too much talking down is done, without addressing the students as small adults with built in choices to switch on or off in the classroom. Part of all, I suppose, is a careful evaluation of curricula. Speaking from personal experience, by the age of 12 I was totally absorbed in nuclear physics, and consumed Scientific American magazines with as much avidity as my fellows consumed comics. My school experience reflected not one jot of my interest, which eventually died for a lack of opportunity to express it and learn more of it. Yet another part is teacher evaluation and the role of teachers' unions and the rights of the students to receive the education they are paying for, be it through fees or taxes.

Those efforts have to be sustained at every level of the education process. This is a tall order and probably only possible if applied consistently over time.

Speaking now as a parent with graduate / post graduate children (on the cusp, actually) we had to educate our children in spite of the best efforts of the education system to de-motivate them. We had to try to instill the love of learning that they were not getting from their school environments. Choice of school was important, but not all have any choices at all, some in the world don't have any education at all, particularly amongst girls in rural areas of many feudal societies. Even in the best of circumstances not all parents have that level of interest. That sort of motivation really should come from the schools and from the classrooms and be part of teaching ethics.

Easy peasy

Tomorrow we solve world poverty, world hunger, drug abuse, sexual abuse of girls and women, corrupt government, nuclear proliferation and global warming. Easy peasy
In 6th grade I was pumped for school. That was the first year of middle school and my science class was freaking awesome. We dissected a shark! I mean a real shark. Sure it was only like half a meter, but still man, sharks kill things. And we opened one up and took out its internals! That was the best science class in my life. We made hot air balloons and models of the ocean floor. We made and ate our own ice cream and all in first period. But alas, the school system blew its load a little early and never again did I feel the urge to learn like I did when I was slicing a shark right down the middle of its belly (do they have bellies)? 
There is no single problem to the school system. That's what makes it such a challenge. Rectifying a single problem won't amount to much and doing it right would mean an entire overhaul most likely that must be done over a long period of time. What might be the underlying problem is the bureaucracy of it all. What few good teachers there are have to conform their notion of education to that of the state. They have to teach to the test just like the bad ones. Or else they will be fired. From year to year there was no consistency in staff. Teachers moved this way and that and often lost their jobs or else were sent elsewhere. 

In my Senior year when the entire bullshit pyramid of the system was most clear to me our school was blessed with an early version of Accreditation for Growth. The state would come in to our school every other month in a board of like 10 evaluators. They would go over every facet in order by the end of the year they might figure out how much money we should be awarded. In the weeks before these visits the school would prep us. They did hour long announcements and assemblies to prepare us on how to behave and basically what we should say if we were to be asked any questions. On one of their visits me and some friends were told we would be interviewed as able-representatives of the "advanced track." We were sent to the library where a bunch of tables were set up with one or two interviewers at each table. Almost every student in the "advanced track" was there. So much for representation. 

Anyway, we sat at a table with two interviewers. One was a woman of her late twenties who was unabashed about her protruding mountains of bosom. I've also never seen a larger herpes mark on her lip. She'd lost us before her first question. The questions were to be expected, "what do you like about the school, what would be different, where do you think the money should go to." 

-"Well you honored representative of the state, we love our school. We love that our teachers are given so much freedom by the system to make the classroom into something more than the classroom. Best of all the administration knows how to remain outside the doors of the class, they let the teachers mold our brains to our hearts and do the paper work inside the offices at the front of the building.  If we were to have more money than we would love to give it to the administration who make all of this possible. No matter what any money we get should be kept away from the lowest level classes who hardly are living up to the reasonable standards set to us by your esteemed system.  Maybe the money you give us can be used to set up a different school so our scores will work better for you. We aim to please here at Factory High School."

We weren't entirely fair of course. But why should we be? If I learned anything in high school it was not to be a sheep. 

I was editor on the newspaper that year and one month we tried to put a spotlight on Accreditation for Growth. Me and a few friends ripped it apart in a few articles and we even got support from teachers who saw it for it was. We went to our idiot teachers too and got them to speak in behalf of AFG while at the same time proving they would be hurt by it. They were great articles. We got censored and we had to publish something else, most likely a plea for longer lunches or whatever nonsense goes into high school editorial pages. 

The system is broken beyond repair. It needs to be reborn 
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Latest Post: January 28, 2010 at 8:01 AM
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