Quite frankly, my main response while reading USA Today’s lengthy piece on potential standardized test cheating in DC Public Schools was “oh shit”. This just has really horrible implications for all involved, and it’s a pity that things have come to this. (No Child Left Behind is the original culprit behind cheating, but pay-for-performance definitely adds some additional incentive for teachers to cheat.) Don’t read any further until you read the whole piece; it’s long but worth the time.
The main thing missing from the article is an explanation of what testing procedures are in DCPS. As far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence, teachers administer tests for their own students, at least in elementary school – problem #1. The only other thing I know from my time in the central office is that central office employees are randomly assigned to observe testing in schools (which I think is a general practice in most districts and doesn’t necessarily do much to deter cheating unless there’s an official in each classroom for the entire duration of testing).
Here was my experience at a high school in Prince George’s County that hasn’t made AYP for years:
- Teachers did NOT administer tests to their own students OR for their own subjects. In fact, teachers of tested subjects were kept out of testing rooms entirely on the day(s) that the test for their subject was given.
- Students were assigned to classrooms alphabetically; teachers were assigned as administrators and proctors randomly.
- Administrators and proctors had to attend a training session and sign a document certifying their understanding of their responsibilities.
- Teachers administering or proctoring tests (there were two teachers per classroom, one in each role) were expected to watch the students – we were not allowed to read or do anything else during the testing time.
- We were able to look at the tests we administered while the students took them.
- The testing coordinator in the building picked up the testing materials following the administration (and before the students left the room). There was no opportunity for teachers to tamper with tests unless they were somehow able to access them after they had been collected.
That’s all I’m going to say about this for right now – but if, as the article seems to suggest, the central office was in any way hindering or hiding an investigation of potential cheating (and I think with the statistics cited it’s way beyond potential), then I’m very disappointed and surprised.