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If you still think there is hope for the nation’s government school system, revelations about a number of New York teachers made public this week should change your mind for good. The news is quite appropriate for Halloween – because it’s scary.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Associated Press uncovered records showing that 21 New York teachers between 1999 and 2002 cheated “on behalf of their students” when administering standardized tests – tests that were designed to demonstrate student progress in critical areas of learning.

According to the report, teachers have been found guilty of reading off test answers to students, sending students back to correct wrong answers, copying secure tests for class use, inflating final scores, and going over and practicing answering test questions in class before administering the exams.

Worse, says the report, the number of teachers caught doing this is probably low. Other teachers – in and outside New York – are saying the cheating is much more common than the statistics indicate.

Liberals have always hated the idea of standardized testing. They claim they object to it because it is unfair to poor and minority children – though liberals never explain why mommy and daddy’s salary and skin color prevent their kids from learning the same stuff children from richer, whiter households also have to learn.

In reality, they object to such standardization because it bypasses all of the social engineering liberals have woven into the educational system. Standardized testing doesn’t ask Johnny how he feels about himself, and it doesn’t ask Johnny to take his best guess at the answer to three-plus-three. Such testing demands students provide unambiguous answers to specific questions. In other words, it requires teachers to teach and students to learn.

Before you say “duh,” consider how most liberals react to anyone with a brain who challenges them on the issues. Do most liberals argue poignantly, or do they resort to name-calling, labeling and finger-pointing? Now ask yourself this question: Would those in charge of today’s education curriculum tolerate millions of thinking, rational, patriotic anti-liberals graduating high school every year?

Consider that, since liberalism came to dominate American education so prominently, the nation has had to contend with substandard performance, “educated” illiteracy – whereby high-school and college graduates cannot read effectively or write clearly and concisely – mediocrity, and diminishing ability to compete with other industrialized nations. This is success?

New York’s top teachers’ union epitomizes this failure in excusing the cheating cited this week.

“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. “I don’t think our members are Machiavellian. I think they are just trying to help the kids do better.”

Oh. As long as you “care,” cheating is OK.

There may be some legitimate complaints about standardized testing – for one, it shouldn’t be (and is not) the end-all, be-all guide to determining student progress and teacher effectiveness. But to dismiss it as biased against race and poverty is so inane it defies description.

Standardized tests can be used effectively to discover early on whether some kids – white, black, Asian, Hispanic; rich or poor – have serious learning disabilities, or whether they simply are not applying themselves to schoolwork.

They can also be used – and this is what the unions fear – as a way to gauge how well a teacher is teaching her students. God forbid parents, policymakers and taxpayers should have a way to check on the performance of teachers.

What is really grotesque is that the liberal academic establishment even deigns to introduce such concepts as race, creed and economic status into the debate over how to improve the nation’s public education system. If the goal is educating children – teaching them to read well, understand what they read, reason sufficiently and figure – kids of all colors, backgrounds and social status are automatically equal.

Providing answers on standardized tests damages more than just the system put in place to gauge student/teacher performance. It is a lie that can devastate our children’s futures, rob them of opportunities and sentence them to the kind of lives testing opponents contend are disadvantageous to begin with.

If that’s how liberals define “caring,” our kids would be much better off if liberals didn’t “care” so much.

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