The following was also posted on the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education’s blog, The EDifier.
Last week I showed that the data from the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s (AJC) investigation on cheating, while certainly accurate, was not evidence of a widespread epidemic. Yes, there certainly was evidence that cheating was likely taking place in some districts. While this is inexcusable, it’s important to also remember that those instances of cheating involved few enough students that they wouldn’t have any impact on the overall state or in many cases even district results. In this case, one rotten apple wouldn’t spoil the whole barrel.
Despite the fact that AJC found that 24,000 out of 13 million students from across the country( which is about two tenths of one percent) attended grades where cheating was likely taking place, AJC chose to declare that cheating is common practice in our nation’s schools by running an opinion piece by Robert Schaeffer of the anti-testing organization FairTest. The piece stated, “Experts may debate the methodology, but there is no question that cheating on standardized exams is widespread.”
Experts may debate the methodology, but Schaeffer is flat-out wrong to say there is no question that cheating is widespread. Whatever your personal measure of “widespread,” declaring that cheating is widespread when the data shows less than a percent of students may be involved is quite a stretch.
Schaeffer makes the same stretch when he says that his organization has confirmed cheating in 33 states and D.C. over the past three years. I don’t think a handful of unethical and misguided educators in a state means that the whole state should be labeled as cheaters.
Here’s another statistic to remember. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of schools in most states. If your child attended a school in one of those 33 states or D.C., the chances are slim their test scores were manipulated in any way. So the public should continue to have confidence in the results of the state assessments. While we must eliminate cheating, don’t let one rotten apple spoil the whole barrel of good information we can gather from state assessments.