65+ Ways Schools Have Cheated on Testing: Manipulating High-Stakes Exam Scores for Political Gain

Drawn from government and media reports by FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

updated – December, 2018

Pre-Testing

  • Fail to store test materials securely
  • Encourage teachers to view upcoming test forms before they are administered
  • Teach to the test by ignoring subjects not on exam
  • Drill students on actual test items
  • Share test items on internet before administration
  • Practice on copies of previously administered “secure” tests
  • Administer “practice” version(s) or real test to prepare selected students
  • Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school
  • Hold-back low scorers from tested grade
  • “Leap-frog” promote some students over tested grade
  • Transfer likely low-scoring students to private schools, charters or homeschooling where no tests are required
  • Push likely low scorers out of school or enroll them in GED programs
  • Place likely low scorers in special ed classes where they are not tested
  • Falsify student identification numbers so low scorers are not assigned to correct demographic group
  • Urge low-scoring students to be absent on test day
  • Leave test materials out so students can see them before exam
  • Set up classroom desks and chairs to facilitate answer copying
  • Urge high-performing students to do poorly o baseline test to boost reported “value-added” score gains

 

During Testing

  • Let high-scorers take tests for others
  • Overlook “cheat sheets” students bring into classroom
  • Post hints (e.g. formulas, lists, etc) on walls or whiteboard
  • Suspend exam administration to allow “re-teaching” of content on test
  • Write answers on black/white board, then erase before supervisor arrives
  • Allow test-takers access to dictionaries and other printed resources
  • Let students look up information on web with electronic devices
  • Allow calculator use where prohibited
  • Encourage reliance on special calculator programs that can answer questions
  • Ignore test-takers copying answers from each other
  • Fail to screen for electronic devices that facilitate test-information sharing
  • Permit students to go to rest room in groups
  • Take lunch break mid-testing, allowing students and staff to discuss questions
  • Discuss mathematical formulae after test booklets have been distributed
  • Shout-out correct answers
  • Use body language to indicate right and wrong responses (e.g. thumbs-up/thumbs down signals)
  • Instruct students to “double check” specific, erroneous responses
  • Pass out notes with correct answers
  • Give students color-coded candies (e.g. green M & Ms for right answers; red for wrong)
  • Read questions aloud to students not allowed this accommodation
  • Urge students who have completed sections to work on others
  • Allow entire class extra time to complete test
  • Reclassify native English speakers as English Language Learners to give them additional time
  • Leave classroom unattended during test
  • Warn staff if test security monitors are in school
  • Refuse to allow test security personnel access to testing rooms
  • Cover doors and windows of testing rooms to prevent monitoring
  • Give unnecessary accommodations to students without disabilities

 

Post-Testing

  • Allow students to “make up” portions of the exam they failed to complete
  • Invite staff to “clean up” answer sheets before transmittal to scoring company
  • Review test-taker scratch paper to identify question content for future prep lessons
  • Permit teachers to score own students’ tests
  • Fill in answers on items left blank
  • Rescore borderline exams to “find points” on constructed response items
  • Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones
  • Provide false demographic information for test-takers to assign them to wrong categories for analysis
  • Fail to store completed answer sheets securely
  • Destroy answer sheets from low-scoring students
  • Report low-scorers as having been absent on testing day
  • Retroactively “withdraw” low-scorers from school to scrub average score data
  • Share content with educators/students who have not yet taken the test via email, text, Facebook or Twitter
  • Fail to perform data forensics on unusual score gains
  • Ignore “flagged” results from erasure analysis
  • Forge proctor signatures on statements that they read and followed test security guidelines
  • Refuse to interview personnel with potential knowledge of improper practices
  • Allow local school districts to investigate themselves after irregularities alleged
  • Threaten discipline against testing impropriety whistleblowers
  • Fire staff who persist in raising questions
  • Fabricate test security documentation for state education department investigators
  • Lie to law enforcement personnel

Bob Schaeffer 12/21/18