FairTest: Standardized Test Cheating Will Continue

FairTest.org’s fact sheet on the impact widespread standardized tests has on students and their schools begins by quoting the Donald T. Campbell’s Law of undesirable consequences:

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. . . when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

In the past decade, standardized testing has played an increasing role in evaluations of schools, teachers and other education staff. The results of these examinations also frequently underline the formulas by which school funding is allocated. It is almost an inevitable consequence that, subsequently, the rates of cheating on these tests will also skyrocket, as teachers, principals and even district officials will feel increased pressure to improve the ratings of their schools, suggests FairTest. Since NCLB’s wide adoption, FairTest has cataloged confirmed cases of cheating in 33 states and the District of Columbia — the latest of which was the recently published investigation by The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the integrity of school testing.

The analysis doesn’t prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.

Although FairTest.org believes that increased security during the administration of the tests will decrease the instances of cheating, this will only further delay the implementation of the real solution to the current mess of an evaluation system. Until politicians, including current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are willing to dismantle the NCLB and its attendant testing mania, say critics, children will continue to be ill-served by the institutions that are supposed to educate them.