A report released this week by Louisiana’s Education Department shows testing irregularities and other issues are on the rise in the state’s schools.
According to the report, the number of standardized tests in the state that have been voided due to excessive answer changes is the highest it has been in the last three years. However, the number of tests thrown out for plagiarism is on the decline.
A total of 230 schools in the state were cited. That number represents 15% of the over 1,500 public schools and private schools that accept vouchers, writes Jessica Williams for NOLA.com.
Of the 1.9 million tests taken in the state, 972 were thrown out, or 0.05%. Last year the total was closer to 0.03%. While the data suggests a rise in rejected tests, education officials say the two years cannot be accurately compared because changes have been made to how the state voids particular tests.
Students in the state begin participating in standardized exams in the third grade and continue the practice through high school. Test scores are linked to success for all in the school system, as students can be held back a grade for receiving poor results, teachers may be fired, and entire institutions can be shut down or seized by the state.
Experts believe that pressure may be causing students or teachers to feel the need to cheat to keep test scores high in the state. Such outcomes have occurred in Louisiana, where three New Orleans schools have cause to believe that administrators have been cheating for the past five years and test tampering in the same area had been rampant since the 1990s.
The most well-known current example of cheating is the Atlanta schools scandal, where a trial is currently ongoing concerning a host of teachers and administrators accused of cheating.
Many cheating cases result in the school system policing themselves, and schools frequently identify cheaters. A number of schools in the state had exams thrown out after test administrators caught students cheating by looking at another students’ paper. Another school saw students report their teacher of cheating. An investigation concluded the teacher had been giving students an “unfair advantage,” and the test was thrown out.
Other times a school system will investigate a situation after state officials flag or invalidate tests. One example found students were sitting too close together and were able to cheat easily.
The report is released right as schools in the state are preparing for the next round of standardized exams. For many high school students, ACT exams will begin on March 9. Elementary students will begin Common Core-aligned testing the following week.