Thursday, July 14, 2011

Educator cheating on tests increasing across the nation

Kentucky not immune

Fox News reports that there is a disturbing rise in school staff and teachers cheating on tests their students take.

Even US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is “stunned.”

And, don’t think that cheating is just happening elsewhere. Right here in Perry County, Kentucky a district-wide cheating scandal on the ACT is still an open and, so far, unpunished issue. summarizes recent reports of cheating in several large metropolitan school systems including Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia.

There are also reported problems in Baltimore.

Secretary Duncan told

"State and local officials share responsibility for defending against security breaches and threats to data quality." says Duncan urged state and local educators to review "assessment security" and make improvements, if necessary. Duncan also urged "unannounced, on-site visits" when tests are being administered.

Sadly, Kentuckians should not sit back and think this is only happening elsewhere. Back on October 9, 2010, we first commented on a cheating scandal surrounding ACT testing in Perry County’s public schools.

By December 6, 2010 the ACT, Inc. completed its investigation and confirmed there had been cheating in Perry County.

Just Duncan noted about Atlanta, the Perry County situation appears to involve a system-wide culture issue.

By the way, it is now mid-2011. So far, no Perry County educator has faced any consequences for the alteration of student answer sheets.

At present, only one organization, the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB), has an ongoing investigation to hold teachers and staff accountable. The EPSB started that investigation back in March.

Four months later, EPSB has yet to announce any findings, and the office advised by phone today that the matter remains “under investigation.”

Other state enforcement agencies such as the Attorney General and the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability are aware of the Perry County situation, but it appears the EPSB has been given the lead for first investigations.

That puts a lot of pressure on EPSB to do the job well and to be aggressive about forwarding their findings to other agencies if improper activity, such as criminal actions, is determined. The reason is that the EPSB only has authority to suspend or revoke teachers’ and principals’ certificates. However, more aggressive action may be warranted because these ACT tests are paid for by the taxpayer and are used in a number of official ways such as awarding tax-funded KEES scholarships. Inflated ACT scores can lead to higher KEES awards.

In general, the cheating issue is really important. We agree with US Department of Education spokesperson Justin Hamilton, who told

"People want to have confidence in that process. It's clear that the real crime here is that these kids are being cheated out of the world-class education they deserve."

To be very clear, we agree with Secretary Duncan that the great majority of our teachers are honorable and undoubtedly deplore cheating on education tests just as much as we do.

However, so far any public expression of outrage from honest teachers and their professional organizations has been rather muted, at best. That does little to put pressure on Kentucky’s education leaders to find and appropriately deal with cheaters who do a great disservice to their profession, to their students and to the general public alike.

And, so long as the cheaters go unpunished, it’s our kids ultimately continue to be cheated, and we don’t want this to continue, whether it happens in Atlanta, DC, Baltimore, or right here in Perry County, Kentucky.


Logan said...

Is the rise in cheating due to laziness, negligence, or the immense pressure to give better results so that the state can continue to milk the federal government for education dollars?

Perhaps all three?

Richard Innes said...

Logan's questions are interesting.

There may be other issues, as well, such as poor teacher preparation programs and insufficient on-going support that left the cheaters unable to really teach their students.

Regardless, the reasons why students continue to fail to learn need to be exposed and corrected. Covering up those problems to preserve the status quo by cheating does students and taxpayers a grave disservice.