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Advocating Zero Tolerance

Making it clear to teachers and staff members.

Administrators can try to prevent testing irregularities in the future by making clear to teachers and other staff members that there is zero tolerance for cheating, says Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

“Tell them it is not allowed and will result in their termination,” Domenech says. “If they are worried about losing their job, they will lose it for sure if they cheat and get caught, and they will get caught sooner or later.”

Unfortunately, he adds, cheating “has repercussions beyond the people immediately affected.” He cites Beverly Hall, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, who was AASA’s National Superintendent of the Year in 2009 and who plans to retire in June although she has not been implicated in her district’s cheating investigation.

Hall is “a super lady,” states Domenech, “and what a shame it is that rather than retiring with all the accolades she truly deserves, she is doing it with this cloud hanging over her head.”

AASA has a code of ethics that, among other things, calls on education leaders to fulfill their professional duties “with honesty and integrity” and always act in “a trustworthy and responsible manner.” Most districts have similar ethics statements, but cheating happens nevertheless and is likely to continue, Domenech says, under current and potentially new federal laws and regulations. “We see additional things coming down the pike that would create even more pressures, like tying teacher evaluation to student performance in a formal way,” he says.

Herman agrees, suggesting that President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative “is going to put even more pressure on test results” that could impact retention and compensation for principals and teachers.

Domenech concludes, “We have to be very careful as we implement policies that we’re not putting in place things that can possibly motivate people to behave in such an unethical way as cheating.”