Erich Martel is a retired D.C. teacher and current whistleblower. The principal of the much-criticized Ballou High School–where chronic absenteeism was ignored–has been removed, but the deeper problems have not been addressed. He points out in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post that the system of rewards and punishments built into the system encourages gaming the system. Standardized tests are used not to identify student needs and remediate them, but to hold schools’ accountable for meeting goals.

He writes:

There is no mystery to high school students’ deficient achievement: DCPS doesn’t use standardized tests to diagnose and remediate students’ learning needs; they’re used to hold school faculties collectively accountable, while unremediated students are socially promoted. Fifty percent of principals’ IMPACT evaluation consists of “voluntarily” set performance goals, including promotion and graduation rates at the high school level. Principals face an unethical choice: honor the grades that students earned or keep their jobs. It’s time to end troubled DCPS management policies that impede teaching and learning and teach the wrong lesson on integrity.

These are the “get tough” policies installed by Michelle Rhee in the name of “reform” and kept in place by Kaya Henderson. They have produced phony test scores and phony graduation rates. This is the fruit of corporate reform, where meeting the goals matter more than truth.

Campbell’s Law takes its toll again. And always. By using the measure as the goal, both the measure and the goal are corrupted.

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

On a similar note, Campbell also wrote:

achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways. (Similar biases of course surround the use of objective tests in courses or as entrance examinations.)