Mississippi Cheating Incidents Drop, But Investigation Continues

The newly released Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT2) scores from tests taken in May reveal six incidents of possible cheating based on "statistically improbable" results.

This is a significant drop from previous years, during which there were more than triple that number, reports Emily Le Coz, writing for The Clarion-Ledger. The incidents which are alleged to have taken place in the Delta (the northwest section of the state) and within the Jackson Public Schools. Officials in each area of the state who were contacted by the press stated that the scores were based on hard work and said there had been no cheating.

A statistical model used by the Clarion-Ledger was able to predict what the scores should have been based on previous years scores. A few matched the prediction, but the rest followed standard deviation. However, exceeding more than three standard deviations is considered statistically improbable unless there has been some type of outside influence. The Clarion-Ledger identified an average of 13 dubious scores for each of the past five years, with last year alone producing 19.

The highest deviation was 5.6 at Inverness. The school's principal resigned this month, and the superintendent of that district did not return the paper's calls for comment. The second-highest deviation was at Mize, where the superintendent said that staff and scheduling adjustments, which better served the students' needs, caused the rise of the scores.

Overall, statewide scores were lower, which state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said was because of "a misalignment of the current assessment to Mississippi's new academic standards". Since the Clarion-Ledger published a report in May, alleging that there had been improprieties in Clarksdale, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has been actively investigating accusations.

Caveon Test Security, which was brought in when test cheating allegations were being brought against schools by the state. Caveon has far more detailed data than that which is released to the public or the press.

In continued coverage from the Clarion-Ledger, Emily Le Coz reports that state education officials said this month, that the Clarksdale Municipal School District educators were involved with cheating — or at least were aware of it — according to findings from a preliminary investigation by the MDE.

The investigation involved reviewing emails, documents, and interviews of witnesses, including students, parents, teachers, and others. The conclusion was that, "reasonable cause existed to believe that Clarksdale Municipal School District employees engaged in or were aware of potential violations of Mississippi testing regulations." The district's internal investigation revealed no evidence of test tampering.

"MDE is moving with a great sense of urgency to complete the investigation," said Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, in the press release. "However, in order to enable MDE to make findings of fact that are thorough and fair, MDE will not adhere to an artificially short timetable in response to increased media attention or political pressure. Proper investigations of this nature require careful attention to details and take significant time to complete."

08 29, 2014
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