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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The State of Education

Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice wrote an Op-ed piece for Newsday about the high school students who have been criminally charged in New York after they paid a recent graduate to take the SAT for them. Greenfield's piece touches on a controversial subject- at what point does a bad act become criminal enough that it should be prosecuted in a criminal courtroom. Have we punished the student enough by denying them entry into college? As Greenfield writes- they need punishment but not a scarlet letter. Many will disagree with this, but this story highlights a larger problem with our educational system- the test driven environment that rewards the student who answers the question correctly, not the student with character, problem solving ability or the individual thinker. Is the criminal justice system going to fix this?

I recently attended a screening of the documentary Race To Nowhere. This is  how the film is described on its website:
Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren't developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what's best for their kids. Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illnesses, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at either college or the workplace unprepared and uninspired. 
I could not help but think of this movie when I read about the case in New York. In the movie, students freely admit that cheating has become common in schools. I don't think anyone disagrees with Kathleen Rice's statement that cheating has become "more systemic than in just Great Neck North." Is higher security at the SAT going to fix this? Is the threat of criminal prosecution going to prevent it from happening? Even our teachers are cheating. Here is a link to the well known story in Atlanta. Schools are pressured to hit certain numbers; administrators and teachers are incentivized for higher test scores. We have created a system where the strength of our centers of learning and ultimately the success of their students is measured by test scores. Their funding is dependent on it. Should we expect our students to act any differently when the rules of the game are one dimensional?

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