I’m tired of doing my kids’ homework

I’m always stuck doing my kids’ homework, writes Karol Markowicz in the New York Post.

For her daughter’s “100th day of school project,” she cut out 100 pictures of American Girls from the catalog, so her daughter could glue them on a board.

“I have a smart, independent, motivated daughter, but it would take her three days to cut out 100 pictures of something for her project,” she writes. Her daughter is in kindergarten. Cutting is hard work.

Even for Mom, it took over an hour and her child spent another hour glueing them on. (Doesn’t this sound like a way to make kids — and moms — hate the number 100?)

Homework should be tailored for the child’s abilities, not the mother’s, Markowicz believes.

As kids get older, their parents face ever more complex science fair projects, writes Hana Schank in The Atlantic.

Last year my son, who was in third grade at the time, came home with a sheet of paper from his school that listed three categories for appropriate projects: developing a hypothesis and conducting an experiment to test that theory, inventing something new, or researching “something specific.” The guidelines listed “whales” as an example of something specific.

Given that my son was 8 years old, the idea that he could, on his own, do any single one of these things seemed ludicrous.

It’s not fair to kids who don’t have a parent who can help and it’s not very educational for those who do.

Are Nashville schools faking the grade?

Thanks to rising test scores, Nashville schools no longer face a state take over. But two educators charge high schools are “faking the grade” by not testing low performers, reports News Channel 5.

CR_USDeptEdTennessee high schools are evaluated based on students’ scores on end-of-course exams in English, algebra, biology and chemistry.

In 2013-2014, Pearl-Cohn, Nashville’s lowest-performing school, was  “under the gun to get our scores up,” says Kelly Brown. In April, her principal brought her a list of students to pull from classes before the end-of-course exams.

“A lot of them were, yes, failing – but not by much. There were some that were actually passing,” Brown said.

One Pearl-Cohn student passed the first semester of Algebra I with an 81. But she scored “below basic” on practice tests. She was assigned to finish Algebra I in a computer lab using a program the district calls A-Plus. More than a year later, she hadn’t finished Algebra I.

“Without real structure and guidance,” most students don’t finish A-Plus, says Brown.

The same thing happened at low-performing Hunters Lane High, says counselor Shana West. She got in trouble for promoting students who weren’t allowed to finish their classes.

Brenda Seay’s granddaughter was passing English I and Algebra I at Hunters Lane, when she was pulled from both classes. Seay wasn’t told why.

. . . Kelly Brown had evidence that last year — as Pearl-Cohn High School faced the risk of a state takeover — the enrollment in independent study went from three classes with 47 students in the fall to 11 classes with 119 students in the spring.

At test time, the pass rate nearly doubled in Algebra I and Algebra II proficiency quintupled.

Atlanta’s cheated students wait for help

When former Atlanta administrators and teachers were convicted in a districtwide cheating conspiracy, prosecutors promised to help their students by offering tutoring, GED classes or job training. But, six months later, the promised Atlanta Redemption Academy is “on hold,” report Molly Bloom and Rhonda Cook in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Atlanta Public Schools plans a separate program to help children affected by cheating, but it won’t start till January at the earliest.

Parents charge “Atlanta is cheating its children,” writes Bloom and Cook.

“When are they going to come back to help the children?” asked Vanessa Haynes, whose daughter testified her fourth grade teacher told students to erase and correct answers on the tests.

Her daughter needs help in reading and math, said Haynes. “Go back and teach these children what you failed to teach them in the first place. Make it right.”

Treat pro athletes like teachers

Key and Peele’s TeachingCenter skit inspired dreams of teachers treated  like pro athletes, but we need to treat pro athletes more like teachers, writes Matt Barnum on The 74 Million.

“After all, when you don’t count our poor kids, we have one of the best education systems in the world,” he writes.

By contrast, the average professional sports team, which wins no more than it loses, could learn from our public schools.

For example, we should stop paying athletes for performance. “Basketball star Lebron James can earn more than $20 million in a single season, while a teammate earns less than $1 million for doing the same job.”

It is well known that merit pay is an idea that “never works and never dies” according to education historian Diane Ravitch. After all it assumes that athletes only play for financial incentives rather than the love of the game. . . . Many pop psychologists have also pointed out that incentive pay will lead to a reduction in collaboration and intrinsic motivation. Instead, athletes should be compensated solely based on experience and whether they have a master’s degree in the sport that they play.

To prevent cheating, “we need to immediately stop evaluating teams and players based on narrow quantitative metrics, like wins and losses. A team is more than a score.”

Finally, it’s time to “stop the war on veteran athletes,” writes Barnum. “Our teams deserve experienced, qualified players — not young kids straight out of college or even high school who are supposedly faster and more athletic.”

Atlanta cheaters will do hard time

Former Atlanta educators convicted in the cheating scandal will spend years in prison.

Judge Jerry Baxter gave longer sentences than the prosecution requested to defendants who refused to plead guilty and apologize. Three top administrators will serve seven years in prison.

“I think there were hundreds, thousands of children who were harmed,” the judge said. “That’s what gets lost in all of this.”

A state investigation found that as far back as 2005, educators fed answers to students or erased and changed answers on tests after they were turned in. Evidence of cheating was found in 44 schools with nearly 180 educators involved, and teachers who tried to report it were threatened with retaliation.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall was charged, but was too sick to go to trial. She died a month ago of breast cancer.

I’m surprised at the long sentences.

Cheating for college scholarships

Over 14 years, a community college basketball coach and academic advisor helped hundreds of athletes meet NCAA requirements by cheating, reports Brad Wolverton in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Most needed academic credits to transfer from junior colleges.

Coaches, parents or “handlers” hired “Mr. White” to help basketball, football and baseball players — and golfers.

A few are now playing in the pros.

Players “took” online or correspondence classes.

For some players, he says, he did their work outright. For others, he provided homework answers and papers that the students would submit themselves. At exam time, he lined up proctors and conspired with them to lie on behalf of students.

Mr. White made sure students didn’t do too well. Earning all A’s and B’s would have drawn suspicion.

Several Adams State classes were so easy, Mr. White says, he hardly needed the test keys.

One question on the final examination for Math 155, “Integrated Mathematics I,” a copy of which Mr. White shared with The Chronicle, asked students to find a pattern and then complete the blanks in this series:

5, 8, 11, 14, __, __, __, __

Many of his clients couldn’t have qualified for a college scholarship without his help, says Mr. White.

App does the math

Scan your homework into PhotoMath, and let the app solve your problems, suggests Denver’s 7NEWS. “It gives you both the final answer and the step-by-step solution. The app supports basic arithmetic, fractions, decimals, algebra, and most linear equations.”

There’s no need to type numbers and operations into a calculator.

Why they cheated

Christopher Waller, the principal of Parks, was lauded in Atlanta, and became a minor celebrity of the school-reform movement.

A former math teacher at a high-poverty Atlanta middle school explains why the principal and teachers cheated in a sympathetic New Yorker profile.

Students who’d passed a competency test in fifth grade arrived at Parks Middle School with first-grade reading levels. The elementary schools were cheating, Principal Christopher Waller concluded. And his supervisors didn’t care.

Waller recruited Damany Lewis to lead a team of teachers willing to change wrong answers. He told them the school would close if it didn’t meet Superintendent Beverly Hall’s unreachable targets.

During testing week, after students had completed the day’s section, Waller distracted the testing coördinator, Alfred Kiel, by taking him out for leisurely lunches in downtown Atlanta. On their way, Waller called the reading coördinator to let her know that it was safe to enter Kiel’s office. She then paged up to six teachers and told them to report to the room. While their students were at recess, the teachers erased wrong answers and filled in the right ones. Lewis took photographs of the office with his cell phone so that he could make sure he left every object, even the pencils on Kiel’s desk, exactly as he’d found them.

As the school’s scores soared, it was lauded for its success, attributed to a “relentless focus on data.” Waller was lauded for his success.

In the spring of 2008, Parks’s scores were almost as high as those of a middle school in Inman Park, a gentrified neighborhood with yoga studios, bike paths, and million-dollar houses. Waller thought the results seemed obviously false, and he called his supervisor, Michael Pitts, to warn him.

Nothing happened. Year after year, improbable numbers were accepted as valid. Complaints were ignored.

Parks attracted so many visitors who were eager to understand the school’s turnaround that teachers had to come up with ways to explain it. At Waller’s direction, they began maintaining what they called “standard-based mastery folders,” an index of all the objectives that each student needed to grasp in order to comprehend a given lesson. Lewis, who was taking night classes at the School of Education at Clark Atlanta University, wrote his master’s thesis on the technique. “It was a wonderful system,” he said. “But we only put it in place to hide the fact that we were cheating.”

Believing the tests weren’t valid, teachers saw cheating as a “victimless crime.”

NYC: Cheating or sympathy?

“Scores on English Regents exams for high schoolers plummeted” when New York City barred teachers from grading tests given at their own school, reports the New York Daily News. Passing rates dropped at 373 out of 490 schools and the failure rate on English exams rose from 27 percent to 35 percent. That change was “not reflected in the other nine Regents subjects.”

At Harlem Renaissance High School 69% of students passed English in 2012. In 2013, only 37% passed. “Teachers helped us out a little bit. They gave us credit for trying,” said senior Morrell Christian, 19, recalling the good old days. “If you needed extra points they gave them to you. That changed when they couldn’t mark their own tests.

Evaluating essays is subjective, teachers told the Daily News. While “grade inflation was rampant,” it wasn’t cheating, they said.

“Teachers know their students. Sometimes a bad grade means the student giving you hell again next year, or him not getting a scholarship,” said one teacher at a Brooklyn school. “There’s a form of empathy coming out. Like, ‘Oh my God, there has to be another point in there! Let’s find it.’”

Many said teachers were “encouraged to grade the exams generously so more students would graduate.” That helped students, but raising graduation rates also could keep a school from closing and earn the principal a “fat bonus.”

Don’t blame measurements for cheating, writes Matt Yglesias on Vox. He’s responding to tweets by Chris Hayes, who “offers a take on the VA scandal that’s calculated to warm the hearts of America’s teachers unions,” writes Yglesias. Hayes writes:

Current VA story is a classic example how metrics ordered from above often just lead to books being cooked rather than better performance . . . See juking crime stats, Atlanta standardized test cheating scandal, etc…

Yglesias wonders if  “a person who cheats in response to an incentive program the kind of person who’s going to do amazing work in the absence of an incentive program . . . If a data-based framework is imperfect, is going to a data-free one any better?”

How to talk to kids about cheating

Cheating ramps up during middle school, where just over 60 percent of students reported cheating on exams and 90 percent admitted to copying another students’ homework,” writes Jessica Lahey. In high school, 75 percent of students admit to academic dishonesty. Parents should talk to their children about cheating.

Don’t assume your child understands the difference between collaborating and cheating, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Brush up on the definition of plagiarism and the reason we give others credit for their work. Discuss the realities of cheating: Academic dishonesty can destroy her reputation as an honorable person, not to mention her relationships with teachers.

Next, ask why she’s cheating and discuss your concerns with the teacher, Lahey advises. Most parents resort to denial when their child is accused of cheating.  Admitting it will “go a long way toward reinforcing the partnership between you and your child’s teacher.”

Don’t help too much with homework. One in five adults admits completing part of a child’s homework assignment.  “Let your child discover her own answers.”

Finally, if you catch your child cheating, don’t cover for her. Take this opportunity, while she is still young and the stakes are still low, to hold her accountable for the consequences of her actions.

Lisa Heffernan, writer of the parenting blog Grown and Flown, offers advice for parents: Convince your kids they’d rather face “my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade rather than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass.”