Cheating Reports Continue to Erupt

K-12 Testing

Cheating reports continue to demonstrate the corrupting influence of high-stakes testing on administrators, teachers, and students. A large study of 68,000 college and high school students by Duke University's Center for Academic Integrity found 70 percent admitted to having cheated, up from 56 percent in 1963. Among the latest examples of cheating allegations are instances from Texas; Camden, New Jersey; Ohio; and New York City.


Test cheating investigators at the company Caveon reported that they found "statistical inconsistencies" in TAKS 2005 tests from 609 of Texas' 5000 schools, covering 702 classrooms. The data suggest the possibility of cheating in 1/12 of Texas schools. Caveon, formed in response to the increase in reported testing as stakes attached to the tests have risen, was hired by Texas after the Dallas Morning News reported it found "suspicious scores" in 400 Texas schools on 2003 and 2004 TAKS tests. Caveon checks for such things as high numbers of erasures on the test forms, schools in which low-scoring students made unusually large score gains, and schools in which all the students answered the questions in the same way. Any of these suggest but do not prove cheating. Caveon claimed to have used a "conservative" approach in which explanations other than cheating are unlikely. State officials said they would compare the results with reports from schools suggesting possible cheating incidents and would only ask districts to investigate those -apparently the same approach the state used before hiring Caveon.


Camden, N.J., disciplined 14 staff, including two principals, for test cheating. The district has been labeled "in need of improvement" because of its repeated failure to meet NCLB targets, raising enormous pressure to boost scores. An assistant superintendent in the district has denied charges lodged by a high school principal that he pressured the principal to alter scores on the state's high school exit exam. The district school board says it is continuing to investigate.


The Ohio Department of Education is investigating 11 districts over charges of cheating on this spring's state tests. Allegations include opening boxes of test booklets days befoe the exam was to be administered, and teachers helping students choose the correct answers.


For at least the second time in two years, New York City students allegedly got an advance look at state reading exams. Practice tests given to Brooklyn fifth-graders the day before testing including three out of four of the actual test passages and questions. The principal and teachers said they believed the material would not be repeated on the tests, which are used to make promotion decisions. A similar incident was reported by New York Mayor Bloomberg in 2004. And allegations surfaced at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx last spring that students' English Regents scores were changed from failing to passing by a new assistant principal to keep the school off the state's failing schools list.