by David Safier
The Star has a front page story from the Atlanta Journal-constitution, Test-cheating scandals inevitable, probe concludes. I posted about another article with similar information this week. The short version is, because high stakes tests are, well, high stakes, they inevitably lead to cheating by teachers and/or administrators.
How much cheating? As they say in the movies, "Houston, we have a problem." Likewise Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore and a few others districts. Evidence indicates the chances are more than a billion to one someone did some serious cheating in those districts. In lots of other districts, the odds are a thousand to one. And those are probably the tip of the iceberg, since most districts and states would prefer to avert their eyes.
What's the solution? Better security procedures. And since teachers, schools, even school districts can't be trusted to create a secure environment -- all of them have lots to gain from high test scores -- it's time to call in the Test Police.
The dominoes are falling again. You create a system or procedure, then to ensure it works properly you create another system of procedure, leading to another system or procedure to bolster the last one, and so on. High stakes testing demands the Test Police, which may mean hiring outside test security companies . . . and so on.
And all the security in the world won't stop the distortions that come from teaching to the test and extensive test prep, both of which rob the tests of their effectiveness as evaluation tools.
With education spending on the decline, we're spending all kinds of money to buy or create tests and more money to score them. Now it looks like we have to spend even more money to police the tests. If high stakes standardized tests were a significantly positive addition to the educational landscape, I guess you could argue all that money and increased security (which, let's face it, creates a tense, negative atmosphere in the schools) might be worth it. But the emphasis on high stakes testing is a net negative. The Test Police will make a bad situation even worse.