Teachers cheating on student tests

February 11, 2010 at 10:55 am 5 comments

The Atlanta Journal Constitution did a big analysis (ala Freakonomics) last year about possible cheating on the statewide high-stakes testing program.  This year, the state department of education is finding evidence that the cheating is widespread.

When the stakes get high enough (e.g., teacher merit pay linked to student performance on those tests), the incentive to cheat becomes enormous.  I wonder what role education research can play in this.  Can we create more opportunities to learn, more teaching methods, more options to improve learning (and bring up scores) of low-performing students?  How do we release the pressure on these teachers so that cheating doesn’t look like the only way out?

One in five Georgia public schools faces accusations of tampering with student answers on last spring’s state standardized tests, officials said Wednesday, throwing the state’s main academic measure into turmoil. The Atlanta district is home to 58 of the 191 schools statewide that are likely to undergo investigations into potential cheating. Another 178 schools will probably see new test security mandates, such as stepped-up monitoring during testing. The findings singled out 69 percent of Atlanta elementary and middle schools — far more than any other district — as needing formal probes into possible tampering.

via Suspicious test scores widespread in state  | ajc.com.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Garth  |  February 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Teacher pay connected to student performance is going to bring out the worst in teachers and teaching. What if you have a class of stupid kids? It happens. Some people are simply smarter than others and every now and then you will get all the dumb ones at once. If it is a choice between ethics and the mortgage payment it is almost a given that the mortgage is going to win.

  • 2. Erik  |  February 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I don’t think that teacher pay being connected to student performance is a bad idea, though we should probably tie it into student improvement rather than outright performance. That would at least give every teacher a chance to show their impact upon the student, hopefully eliminating the problem of getting a “dumb” class. The other thing we should do, and I’m surprised that we don’t see more of, is require teachers to proctor a class other than their own. Would it eliminate the teacher cheating, no, but at least it removes the immediate benefit and would require teachers to conspire in a tit for tat relationship to see any personal gain.

  • 3. Daniel Hickey  |  February 18, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Hi Mark–Nice thread. I just completed a pretty detailed analysis of the proposed Race to the Top Assessment initiative and there is reason to be worried about Pay for Performance when it is coupled with Value Added assessment. It will demand very low level assessments of reading and math that are corrosive when used to drive classroom instruction, becuase they don’t yield evidnece teachers can use. As assessment expert Lorrie Shepard (on the National Academy panel on value added methods said, “you just can’t keep shocking the chicken”. Instead of “shocking the system ” we will have 21st century networks for 20th century tests of 19th century teaching. more at http://bit.ly/9WL1de

  • […] 19, 2010 This is the article that Dan Hickey linked to in his comment to the post on teachers cheating.  It’s an interesting but short piece about best practices in assessment. I was really […]

  • 5. Aaron Lanterman  |  February 24, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Give people a task that they feel is impossible and unfair, and of course they will try to game out the system.


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