Cheating on Standardized Tests Goes Unpunished…if the Cheaters are School Officials

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Students aren’t the only ones found to cheat on school tests. Teachers and education officials too have doctored answer sheets for standardized exams, according to a newspaper investigation.


But unlike student cheating, falsifying by adults often goes unpunished.


According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a probe of cheating scandals in various states uncovered “a subculture of dishonesty” among some educators. The findings included instructors providing answers to students, administrators organizing groups to erase and correct student answers, and education leaders ignoring allegations of cheating.


The Journal-Constitution found 200 school districts with suspicious test scores and examined cases in Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Louis, Mobile and East St. Louis, Ill.


“In some cases, investigations uncovered wrongdoing and led to punishment for a handful of educators. In others, inquiries glossed over glaring irregularities,” journalist Alan Judd wrote. “Nearly always, officials focused narrowly on a single classroom or, at most, a single school — the approach the Atlanta Public Schools used for years before a scandal over systemic cheating erupted three years ago.” That scandal, involving 178 administrators, including 82 who confessed, centered on manipulation of the result of a multiple-choice exam, known as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), that was used to determine if schools have met the standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.


In one case at Lang Middle School in Dallas, state officials performed erasure analysis of the results of a eighth grade math exam that students needed to pass to go on to high school. “Officials threw out the scores of 429 students and ordered them to take the test again during the summer. Eighty percent had passed in the spring, with 63 percent scoring at the advanced level. In the summer, under closer scrutiny, 44 percent passed, 4 percent with advanced scores.”


In the 130 cheating cases that the Journal-Constitution examined, less than a dozen teachers were actually punished, and only ten states even budget for such investigations.

-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

School Test Cheating Thrives While Investigations Languish (by Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

178 Atlanta Teachers and Administrators Accused of Helping Students Cheat on Tests (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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