TO BE SURE, people (and teachers) will succumb to dishonesty. They cheat on their taxes, spouses, and golf partners. Cheating corrodes trust in all things, especially education. Students whose test scores are manipulated upward don’t the get the extra attention they need. And, since teachers are increasingly being evaluated by how much their students’ test scores improve, a teacher who inflates scores could potentially cost her colleagues in the next grade of their job performance.
But cheating also means that public schools finally care enough about student performance that some ethically challenged educators have chosen to cheat. This is far better than the alternative, where learning is so incidental and non-transparent that people of low character can’t be bothered to lie about it. Blaming cheating on the test amounts to infantilizing teachers, moving teaching 180 degrees away from the kind of professionalization that teacher advocates often profess to support.
Indeed, it’s not a coincidence that cheating scandals tend to erupt in municipalities whose public institutions suffer from corruption.