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A Distressing Lesson

It's a cheating scandal with an ironic twist. It's not guilty students on their way to face the principal, CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, it's some principals and teachers themselves.

More than 50 educators have been implicated in 32 New York City public schools in what N.Y.C. Schools Special Commissioner Edward Stancik says seems to be, "the largest case of its kind in the country."

Elementary and middle school teachers have apparently used cheat sheets to provide their students with correct answers for standardized tests. Third grade teacher Stacey Moskowitz blew the whistle to WCBS-TV.

"The teacher would tell them to change it," she explains. "That that's not right; This is not right; Change your answer to the right answer; This is A, B, -- whatever."

Generation after generation of U.S. schoolchildren heard the same thing growing up: Some teacher would wag a finger and scold that "cheaters only hurt themselves." As an American classroom ideal, its importance seemed rivaled only by the Pledge of Allegiance. So what happened?

To Arthur Levine, president of Columbia University's teachers college, it's a national problem. He says that as standards rise, communities want test scores to keep pace. Similar cheating cases from Chicago to Texas support his view that educators are being pressured more than ever to produce high standardized test scores.

"Scores are being recorded in newspapers," he notes. "Principles are being judged on how well their kids do. And all of a sudden, there's this huge spotlight on the school. And there's a real desire on the part of people who lead those schools not to be seen as failing miserably."

New York has a problem with its schools that may differ from the rest of the country only in scale. And it's one that won't be too easy to erase.