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Cheating Teachers in Public School

Posted on the 26 November 2012 by Eowyn @DrEowyn

Cheating teachers in public school

Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in to take their certification tests

NBC News: It was a brazen and surprisingly long-lived scheme, authorities said, to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they  are qualified to lead their classrooms.

For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. —  himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their  place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and  $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis  exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as  cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.

Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public  school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.

Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created  fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher  and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of  giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake  identities.

The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake  license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring  teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the  indictment alleges. Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social  Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with  the scheme.

Mumford “obtained tens of thousands of dollars” during the alleged  conspiracy, which prosecutors say lasted from 1995 to 2010 in Arkansas,  Mississippi and Tennessee.

Among those charged is former University of Tennessee and NFL wide receiver  Cedrick Wilson, who is accused of employing a test-taker for a Praxis physical  education exam. He was charged in late October with four counts of Social  Security and mail fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and is out of jail on a  $10,000 bond. He has been suspended by the Memphis City Schools system.

If convicted, Mumford could face between two and 20 years in prison on each  count. The teachers face between two and 20 years in prison on each count if  convicted. Lawyers for Mumford and Wilson did not return calls for comment.

Prosecutors and standardized test experts say students were hurt the most by  the scheme because they were being taught by unqualified teachers. It also sheds  some light on the nature of cheating and the lengths people go to in order to  get ahead.

“As technology keeps advancing, there are more and more ways to cheat on tests of this kind,” said Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational  Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas. “There’s a never-ending war  between those who try to maintain standards and those who are looking out for  their own interests.”

Cheating on standardized tests is not new, and it can be as simple as looking  at the other person’s test sheet. The Internet and cell phones have made it  easier for students to cheat in a variety of ways. In the past few years,  investigations into cheating on standardized tests for K-12 students have  surfaced in Atlanta, New York and El Paso, Texas.

Still, most of the recent test-taking scandals involved students taking tests, not people taking teacher certification exams. Cheating scams involving  teacher certification tests are more unusual, said Robert Schaeffer, public  education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

Schaeffer notes that a large-scale scandal involving teacher certification  tests was discovered in 2000, also in the South. In that case, 52 teachers were  charged with paying up to $1,000 apiece to a former Educational Testing Services  proctor to ensure a passing grade on teacher certification tests.

Educational Testing Services also writes and administers the Praxis  examinations involved in the Memphis case. ETS spokesman Tom Ewing said the  company discovered the cheating in June 2009, conducted an investigation and  canceled scores. The company began meeting with authorities to turn over the  information in late 2009, Ewing said.

“These cases are rare, but we consider them to be very serious and something  we have to guard against happening for all the honest test-takers, students and  teachers,” Ewing said. Prosecutors in the Mumford case say he, the teachers and test-takers used the  Internet and the U.S. Postal Service to register and pay for the tests, and to  receive payment. The indictment does not say how much he allegedly paid the  test-takers.

An experienced educator, Mumford was working for Memphis City Schools when  the alleged scam took place. Authorities say Mumford defrauded the three states  by making the fake driver’s licenses.

“What happens at many testing centers is that a whole bunch of test-takers show up simultaneously, early on a Saturday morning, and the proctors give only  a cursory look to the identification,” Schaeffer said. “It’s not like going through airport security where a guy holds up a magnifying glass and puts our  license under ultraviolet light to make sure it has not been tampered with.”

Mumford was fired after news of the investigation came out, and others, like  Wilson, have been suspended. But at least three teachers implicated in the  scandal remain employed with their school district.

Kingston, the university professor, said prospective teachers may not be  confident in their knowledge base to pass the test. Or, the cheaters may believe  they are smart enough to pass on their own but also know they are poor test  takers. Kingston said his research has shown that cheating on exams is getting more  prevalent.

“The propensity to cheat on exams both through college and for licensure and  certification exams seems to be increasing over time,” said Kingston. “People  often don’t see it as something wrong.”

The pressure of passing the test could make people do things they normally  would not do. And it could take a while for authorities and test-taking services  to catch up with the cheaters. “When people come up with a new method for cheating, it takes some time for  folks to figure it out, partly because this has been an understudied area in the  field of assessment,” Kingston said.

Nina Monfredo, a 23-year-old history teacher at Power Center Academy in  Memphis, has taken Praxis exams for history, geography, middle school content,  and secondary teaching and learning.

Monfredo, who passed all her tests and is not involved in the fraud case,  said the exams she took were relatively easy for someone who has a high school  education. She said some people use study aids to prepare, but she didn’t. And  she didn’t feel much pressure because it was her understanding that she could  take the test again if she did not pass.

If you feel like you can’t pass and you hire someone it means you really didn’t know what you were doing,” she said. “I think it would be easier to just  learn what’s on the test.”

Any wonder why even Pravda mocks “illiterate” Obama voters?


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