A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, March 19, 2012

I am shocked-- SHOCKED!-- to find that cheating is going on here!

So apparently, to make sure we don't get shocked, let's just NOT LOOK.

One case accuses a teacher of filling in bubble sheets of her students who should have been taking state exams. Another says administrators called pupils into the office so they could have a second chance at questions they missed.

All told, more than 100 reports of standardized testing irregularities, including cheating, poured into the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2010 and 2011, according to documentation obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Thirty-two of those were from the St. Louis area.

And yet, the Missouri education department does nothing on its own to seek out cases of test fraud, despite the availability of effective statistical tools that could weed out potential abuses. Of the $8.4 million the state spends to administer the Missouri Assessment Program, nothing is spent on test fraud detection services.

Failure to invest in the integrity of Missouri's test scores has continued even as schools face rising pressure — and in some cases, incentives — to improve under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. And it has continued in the face of test cheating scandals across the nation — from Atlanta to Washington to Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Critics suggest it's simply easier for states to look the other way. "If you don't look, you don't find," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing. "You are void of embarrassment by not asking tough questions."

Missouri education officials rely on a system of self-reporting that assumes teachers and administrators will come to the state when they know of possible abuse. Under this approach, even when allegations of testing irregularities are reported — as they were 41 times in 2011 — the state and school districts rarely engage in the kind of rigorous statistical review many say is needed.

The state has also dismantled a program due to funding reductions that had sent inspectors randomly into schools to ensure tests are administered properly.

State education officials say looking for red flags would add thousands of dollars to the testing contract at a time when the state has cut department funding. "There is a cost to that," said Sharon Hoge, an assistant commissioner at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "We have tried to rely on self reports in our districts in Missouri. I'm not telling you that means there are not things possibly that are going on that we don't know about."

Read the whole thing. It's fascinating.

I think our state legislators need to realize there's a cost to not checking on reports of cheating. And that is that... excuse me if this is obvious... schools and principals and teachers and students will cheat because there is so much riding on the outcome of these tests.

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