If you think you’ve been reading a lot recently about test cheating scandals in our public schools, you are absolutely right.
A new analysis by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing reports confirmed cases of test cheating in thirty states and the District of Columbia over the past three academic years.
Here’s the list of those states, according to FairTest’s records:
Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon , Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington.
Atlanta School Cheating Scandal Not Unexpected
The cheating scandal that rocked the 48,000-student Atlanta school system is the most recent case, but many testing experts say that although it was egregious, it was not entirely unexpected. The reason: As long as test scores are used to make decisions on rewards or punishments, including for schools or educators, a small percentage of people will be willing to bend the rules — or break them.
Two Schools Of Thought
The allegations of systematic test alteration by teachers and principals in so many states have highlighted a split between those arguing for improved test management and security and those who ask if it’s better to scrap high-stakes testing altogether.
From Education Week:
Yong Zhao, the associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, used the Atlanta situation as a jumping-off point for a five-part series in his blog Zhao Learning. The United States should “ditch testing,” he believes.
In an interview, he said that the country should move to a portfolio-based assessment system that measures students in several areas.
“You can’t fix this by changing internal security,” Mr. Zhao said. “If the stakes are so high that the teachers don’t even believe the measurement itself, they’re going to try to cheat.”
In contrast, Gregory J. Cizek, a professor of educational measurement and evaluation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who assisted state investigators in their Atlanta probe, said that there are no suggestions that sports should be eliminated just because some athletes cheat. In his view, tests produce high-quality information that educators need to make good decisions.
Cheating In A High-Stakes Era
The reality is that states and school districts have grappled with a number of cheating scandals in recent years amid an increased emphasis nationally on high-stakes testing, especially as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001.
According to Fair Test, erasing errors and filling in correct test answers is just one of many ways to “cheat” on standardized tests. Across the nation, strategies that boost scores without improving learning, including narrow teaching to the test and pushing out low-scoring students, are spreading rapidly.
Is Better Policing The Solution? Or Abandoning High-Stakes Testing Entirely?
Is better enforcement the answer to this rash of cheating on standardized tests? It seems more likely that such policing will damage the school climate, push kids to dislike school even more and drop out in even greater numbers.
A better solution would be to get rid of the high-stakes uses of standardized testing because they cheat students out of a high-quality education, and institute instead the kind of alternative testing, such as the use of portfolios, that will ensure a quality education.
Photo Credit: jamesnaruke via Creative Commons