Computer-adapting to cheating

These days, teacher-evaluation systems that
incorporate students’ test scores are spreading like wildfire. And there’s
little sign that these initiatives will be contained to the twenty-six states
that currently have them. Yet checks for potential cheating on these selfsame
assessments haven’t been as vigorously promulgated, a point nattily
made this week by Alexander Russo
. According to a USA Today analysis, only half the states either conducted erasure
analyses (to check for cheating) or used computer-based assessments in
2010-11. (Perhaps there’s lots of overlap between these two groups of
states—but Gadfly wouldn’t bet on it.) Thing is, with strapped budgets and
looming NCLB proficiency requirements, many states see few incentives to spend
beaucoup bucks on erasure analyses. Fortunately, this tempest may soon end.
Both PARCC and SBAC, the two groups working on creating Common Core
assessments, will employ computer-based tests beginning in the 2014-15 school
year. This use of technology will make test erasures a moot point for the
forty-four states plus D.C. that have signed on to one of the consortia and
adopted the CCSS—though it will surely usher in the need for other safeguards
against exam hacking and other malfeasances. But these jurisdictions also
benefit from economy of scale, which can help curb cheating, without breaking
the bank. CCSS adopters: 1; test cheating: 0.

states examine test erasures
,” by Marisol Bello and Greg Toppo, USA Today, September 13, 2011.

are put to the test
,” by Stephanie Banchero and David Kesmodel, Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2011.

States Don’t Check for Cheating, Despite Scandals
,” by Louis Beckett, ProPublica and Education Week, September
14, 2011.