From 1999 through the spring of 2002, New York education officials found 21 proven cases of teacher cheating from Buffalo to Long Island, according to records obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law. Teachers usually reported cheating but some said the practice is more common than records show.
Teachers have read off answers during a test, sent students back to correct wrong answers, photocopied secure tests for use in class, inflated scores, and peeked at questions then drilled those topics in class before the test, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
"Teachers care a lot, sometimes they care too much and try to provide too much help," said Dennis Tompkins, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, the state's largest teachers' union. "I don't think our members are Machiavellian. I think they are just trying to help the kids do better."
New York's teachers are not alone.
In New York, Deputy Education Commissioner James Kadamus said the state started monitoring teachers because it believed they would have more incentive to cheat to meet the new standards.
"We may be investigating more," he said. "But I wouldn't see any major change" in the number of teachers caught cheating.
Cheating in some New York state schools changed scores so much that it invalidated the "school report cards" used by parents, taxpayers and the state to evaluate the performance of schools and educators.
"If students have academic weaknesses, their teachers need to strive to fix it, not cover it up and refuse to acknowledge it exists," said Andrea Rogers of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability. She recommends revocation of a cheating teacher's license.
Most of the teachers quit, were suspended or fired - or faced state discipline that could lead to dismissal.
The records, which did not identify teachers by name, show:
"Teachers are under a lot of pressure to get good grades," she told administrators.
A Harvard study published this year also found similar cases of cheating in Chicago schools fueled by teachers' need to improve standardized test scores.
"We found cheating increased by 30 to 50 percent because of high-stakes testing," said Brian Jacobs of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and co-author of the report "Rotten Apples."
By Michael Gormley