The Chicago Teachers Union blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to reward high-performing principals with merit pay, saying it could bring about the same kind of cheating that took place in Atlanta schools after principals were tempted with more money for higher test scores.
“The research is conclusive—merit pay does not work and can have troubling side effects—cheating, narrowing of curriculum and competition between teachers where collaboration is needed,” CTU President Karen GJ Lewis said. “Think Atlanta, New York City and Los Angeles: student standardized test scores were never intended to be nor should they be used for any personnel decision.
“Independent studies, including in Chicago, show that teaching to the test does not improve student achievement. An investigation in Atlanta concluded that pressure to meet testing targets led to widespread cheating in 44 schools. Similar investigations are underway across the country. Chicago and our students deserve better.”
In the Atlanta case, $17 million in bonuses were paid out over a 10-year period. One principal received $580,000. But to achieve the high test scores -- and the bonuses -- schools held “social gatherings in which answers were erased and corrected,“ according to The New York Times. “At Toomer, in the residential Kirkwood neighborhood east of downtown, the report claimed that some teachers either told students the answers or suggested them with voice inflection during testing."
Allegations of cheating resulted in a state investigation, which “named about 180 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating, including erasing and correcting mistakes on students' answer sheets to standardized tests. More than 80 APS employees confessed. The investigators said they uncovered evidence of cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Educators named in the investigation face termination and the loss of their teaching certificates. Criminal prosecutions could follow.”
The Atlanta Public Schools’ merit pay program is “under review,” the paper said.
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