Standardized Tests Leaked to Facebook

In most schools, the security of standardized tests is usually a pretty big deal. New York City public schools just finished our ELA and Math state tests. I can’t tell you how many times I had to count my students’ tests, recount them, and then sign my life away (twice) that everything was accounted for. Later this year, the Second Language Proficiency test I give to my students will come in a metal box with a heavy duty padlock securing it. One year we had to repeatedly bang the padlock on a table to get the key out — they’re not exactly messing around with light-weight equipment for these tests.

I guess it makes sense that if we’re going to subject our kids to high-pressure, high-stakes testing, we should at least make sure that the integrity of the materials are not compromised. Especially in the case of the ELA and Math tests in New York, if students don’t pass them (assuming they don’t have specific promotional criteria), they don’t move on without retaking them in summer school.  It’s logical then, I suppose, to treat test security with so much gravity.

So I am sure that officials in California were less than thrilled to find hundreds of pictures of their recently administered standardized tests popping up on Facebook and other social media websites. According to an article by Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times, California is about halfway through their bout of standardized tests.

These tests will not necessarily be used to rate the students themselves, but will weigh in on each school’s Academic Performance Index and ultimately influence decisions about which schools deserve to be closed, sanctioned, or completely revamped. If 5% of a school’s tests are disqualified either due to cheating or errors made by those administering the test, schools could lose their Academic Performance Score entirely. As Blume points out, this score plays a big role in whether or not parents will seek out a specific school for their children. If they subsequently decide to settle in the area, their tax dollars will flow back into the school, allowing it to have greater access to resources to boost student achievement. Consequently, a possible cheating spree is kind of a big deal in schools’ minds.

From the LA Times:

“‘Most of the images discovered so far contained only students posing with a closed test booklet, blank answer documents, or answer documents with a message written on them,’ the State Education Department said in a release. Some images, however, ‘appeared to contain test questions or completed answer documents’ from both the annual achievement tests and the state’s high school exit exam, which is required for graduation.”

Regardless of whether or not students posted actual answers to specific questions, if they had a cell phone to take a picture of their test, they could have also used that same phone to look up answers to difficult questions online. Obviously, whoever administered the tests to these students needs to be more vigilant in the future, but for this year at least, the validity of the tests may have already been compromised.

Given the security issues this whole Facebook fiasco has unearthed, a few already much-debated questions come to mind:

1. In states where student achievement is directly assessed by standardized tests, should students’ academic futures even be tied to a few days’ worth of testing?

2. Is student performance on standardized tests an effective way to judge individual schools and school districts?

3. Given that it has become increasingly difficult to guarantee the security of testing materials (among many other reasons), might it be time to actively seek out a different method?

What do you think?


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How Important Are Test Scores In Evaluating Teachers?

Photo Credit: birgerking via Flickr


Nadine Hudak
Nadine H5 years ago


Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago

those tests are stupid, I hated them in school, it's one stupid test, and it makes you feel retarded if you don't do good on them

Sandi C.
Sandi C5 years ago


Dave C.
David C5 years ago

I don't like standardized tests, but there has to be some way to tell how one school compares to another or one district to another, so that we can take the good ideas and spread them around and stop using things that don't work....

having said that standardized testing is and has to be only a part of how we evaluate students, teachers, schools, etc......

what is sad is how there are no easy answers, but our society has gotten away from the importance of thinking and education......more motivated by athletic or artistic abilities, latest fads/fashions, etc........

Hello G.
Hello G5 years ago


DeAnna Collins
DeAnna Collins5 years ago

Thank you

ii q.
g d c5 years ago


Loo Samantha
Loo sam5 years ago


Tom Dundee
Tom Dundee5 years ago

No Child Left Behind was the brainchild of Senator Ted 'the Swimmer' Kennedy.

In a misguided attempt at bipartisanship, President Bush signed this into law instead of making his first VETO.

Tom Dundee
Tom Dundee5 years ago

What is the problem since these tests were completed? These tests are not used once and a new batch is created for next year. These tests were 'normed' so as to give the results a definite meaning. This process is lengthy and costly.

First of all, we have a Constitutional violation with the release of these test pages.

The Constitution protects copyrighted material. Now if someone can be found to have done this so a competitor can gain access to this info, that person has major legal problems.

Standardized test scores are one of 3 items used to rank students. Standardized Test Scores and not the end all, but they do serve a purpose. Test scores are objective, which means they are not subjected to the biases of a person supplying a recommendation or deciding who should be admitted to a specific school or program. These scores can compare students from state to state.

Grades are the second of the 3 means of determining the ability of students. Grades can be very subjective for a variety of reasons that has nothing to do with the teacher's own views. Then there is the matter of grade inflation.

If there is anyone with a suggestion to take the place of the traditionally accepted means of ranking students, I would like to hear it. As I see it, the bulk of the respondents advocate anarchy.