Cheating on high stakes tests? Who woulda guessed

by David Safier

When test scores are make-or-break for teachers and administrators, it causes some people to bend the rules to save their bacon and/or boost their standing. Stories have emerged of outright cheating, like teachers and/or administrators erasing students' wrong answers and bubbling in the right ones. Less blatant ways to "help" students before and during the tests are even more typical.

And now this. A Georgia principal un-enrolled 13 third and fifth grade students right before the high stakes test in May, then reenrolled them after the test. She has since resigned.

Sounds terrible, right? Yes, but not unusual. Texas has been doing this kind of thing on a large scale for years to boost their tenth grade state test numbers. They figure out ways to drop low ranking students during the ninth grade, or they hold the students back a year, then leapfrog them from the ninth to the eleventh grade. This has been standard operating procedure all over the state, and so far as I know, it's still going on.

I suspect some similar manipulation in Florida, possibly in the eighth and tenth grades, but at this point, it's only a suspicion. We already know how the Florida NAEP scores are boosted in the fourth grade by their high third grade retention rate. Here's some of the most recent proof.

To the extent high stakes tests are reliable indicators of student achievement, they have to be given to a representative sample of students, and the students have to take them without any advanced preparation which is geared to the specific test. Otherwise, the results have little relationship to the attributes they're designed to test.

0 responses to “Cheating on high stakes tests? Who woulda guessed

  1. I am encouraged to notice that the regimin of standardized testing that was forced upon us and shoved down our throats is now being looked at with a very critical eye.

    Finland has scored a the top of the international tests n Math, Reading, and Science for last 12 years, and they deliberately rejected the prevailing standardization movement. What they did instead to reform their education system is quite interesting:

    Finland pays teachers extremely well. Their teachers make 102% of what their fellow university graduates make (compared to 65% in the United States).

    They made teaching a highly competitive and very attractive career choice with the high pay, and they get very talented people as a result.

    What’s really interesting in that article though is what else they did. Besides paying teachers a lot more, they also did away with standardized testing (no AIMS in Finland), mandated kids play outside for at least 90 minutes a day, and also mandated kids take classes in art, music, cooking, carpentry, metalwork, and textiles.

    They take the exact opposite approach we do and have great success! Even before Bush’s education guru Diane Ravitch came out in public and said she has changed her mind after looking at ten years worth of data — The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education ( — Finland had reached the same conclusion and reformed what it did, and has experienced great results.

    Notice how what Finland does, and how it does what it does, is contrary to the ideas propagandized and pushed by the GI. And the results are indisputable.