Date: Feb 17, 2012 2:27 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: [ncsm-members] How to stop cheating on standardized tests

From The Washington Post [The Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss],
Friday, February 17, 2012. See
How to stop cheating on standardized tests

By Valerie Strauss

In light of repeated cheating scandals on standardized tests in
school districts across the country, the Education Department
recently asked members of the public for ideas on how to prevent,
detect and respond to irregularities on completed tests - see

The idea is for the department to collect the information and share
it with school districts around the country. Here's a response just
sent to the department by the National Center for Fair & Open
Testing, or FairTest, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending
the unfair use and misuse of tests.

Response to U.S. Department of Education

Request for Information to Gather Technical Expertise Pertaining to
Testing Integrity

February 16, 2012

Over the past three academic years, the National Center for Fair &
Open Testing [see ] has confirmed cases of
standardized test [see
] cheating in 32 states and the District of Columbia (see attached
list below). The root cause of this epidemic is clear from in-depth
investigations into some of the most egregious scandals. Misuse of
standardized tests mandated by public officials has created a climate
in which increasing numbers of educators feel they have no choice but
to cross ethical lines.

If the U.S. Department of Education is serious about its commitment
to assessment integrity, it must act to reduce test cheating by
stopping promotion of test score misuse.

Despite their high-sounding statements about assessment reform,
President Obama and Secretary Duncan are adding incentives for
cheating by ratcheting up the emphasis on standardized exams scores
through initiatives such as "Race to the Top" [see
] and their criteria for states to receive waivers from "No Child
Left Behind." [see
] The continued emphasis on annual high-stakes annual testing in
these programs and, especially, new requirements to assess teachers
based on their students' scores virtually guarantees even more
cheating will take place.

The administration's favored policies also contradict the findings
and recommendations of "Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in
Education," the important report [see ]
released last year by the National Research Council of the National
Academies of Science. That study's distinguished panel of experts
concluded that high-stakes testing has not improved educational
quality. [see

Widespread cheating is an inevitable consequence of overuses of
high-stakes testing, as predicted by renowned social scientist Donald
Campbell. In 1976 he wrote in what is now called Campbell's Law, [see ] "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. . . 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."

Recent examinations of major outbreaks of cheating confirm the
accuracy of Campbell's prediction. In Atlanta, Georgia, for example,
the Governor's Bureau of Investigation found [ see
]that test score misuse was a major reason for why cheating occurred.
]] They wrote, "The targets . . . were often unreasonable,
especially given their cumulative effect over the years.
Additionally, the administration put unreasonable pressure on
teachers and principals to achieve targets. . . ultimately, the data
and meeting 'targets' by whatever means necessary, became more
important than true academic progress."

In their report on the Dougherty County System, the Georgia Special
Investigators identified similar causes [see ] In the section
titled "Why Cheating Occurred," the investigators cite No Child Left
Behind's "pressure to meet AYP targets" as "a significant motivation
for cheating" finding, "This pressure drives some individuals to
cross ethical lines." They concluded, "Since the enactment of NCLB,
standardized testing has become more about measuring the teachers,
principals and schools than accurately assessing the children's
academic progress."

In terms of "best practices" for detecting and responding to testing
irregularities, there is no need for a massive federal study. The
reports by the Georgia Office of Special Investigators examining
cheating in Atlanta area schools are a model for policy-maker
response. A comprehensive review by independent law enforcement
professionals - not politicians or bureaucrats who may have vested
interests in protecting current policies and personnel - is
necessary. Combined with the use of the full range of forensic
detection tools - including analyses for high numbers of erasures,
unusual score gains, and patterns of similar responses - this
approach has proven most likely to root out the full truth.

More policing and better after-the-fact investigations will not,
however, solve the many problems caused by the politically motivated
misuses of standardized exam scores. Instead, high-stakes testing
requirements must end because they cheat students out of a
high-quality education and cheat the public out of accurate
information about school quality.


The FairTest National Center for Fair & Open Testing


According to FairTest's records, in the past four school years one or
more cheating cases have been documented in the following
jurisdictions. The key:

# Included in March 2011 USA Today/Gannett investigative series

* Multiple reports or apparent systematic pattern

Arizona #
California #
Colorado #
District of Columbia # *
Florida #*
Georgia *
Indiana *
Michigan #
New Jersey *
New York *
North Carolina
Ohio #
Pennsylvania *
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Texas *

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244