Sunday, July 23, 2006

Texas Testing Two-Step: Their Cheating Hearts

It looks as though there have been even more testing shenanigans down in the Lone Star State:
More schools may have cheated on the state's standardized test than Texas education officials have reported after a newspaper analysis found at least 167 additional campuses flagged with suspicious results.

The newest batch of possible cheaters were identified by Caveon, the test security firm the state hired to examine student's scores from last year's Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Caveon is the same firm that found suspicious TAKS patterns in about one in 12 Texas schools, prompting the Texas Education Agency to list 442 suspect schools.

But The Dallas Morning News found another 167 unidentified schools flagged as potential cheaters by Caveon that didn't get on the list. The additional schools were flagged based on the number of suspicious scores throughout an entire campuses.

The TEA's list only includes schools that had individual classrooms flagged.

The state didn't obtain the list of schools Caveron considered suspicious because "the list based on the classrooms seemed to be the most useful for districts to use in following up the results," Lisa Chandler, the state's director of assessment, told the newspaper.

Last month, TEA officials said they would investigate 14 schools on the Caveon list that were also due cash bonuses from the state for their outstanding test scores.

"The only list of schools we have is the list that has been made public," TEA spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said. "That's the list we plan to work with. The schools that TEA intends to address would be the ones where classrooms were flagged in the list that's been provided."

The missing schools were discovered in an appendix of Caveon's May report to the TEA. The appendix outlines what it found in one high school where cheating on the math portion of TAKS was suspected.

The report doesn't identify the school by name and lists its students only as anonymous ID numbers. Caveon, a Utah-based data-analysis company, flagged 609 of the 7,112 schools it analyzed — more than 8 percent.
My guess is that as Washington continues to increase pressure on states (who in turn increase the pressure on local districts) to continually increase the percentage of students who pass standardized tests in order to reach federally-mandated benchmarks that also continually increase, we'll see a substantial increase in the number of test-cheating incidents as districts struggle to satisfy Washingtons dictate that 100% of American students achieve grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and science.

Isn't it a wee-bit peculiar that this unhappy incident ocurred in Texas, of all places?

And yes, for some unknown reason, we couldn't get the word increase out of our head.
See our latest education-related entries right here.