Report Finds Cheating on High Stakes Tests is Rampant in the US

The US Government Accountability Office has reported evidence of rampant cheating in high stakes tests in the United States. The Office issued a report earlier this month showing that there were allegations of cheating in 40 states in the last two years. At least one instance of cheating was confirmed in 33 states and in 32 states test scores were cancelled or invalidated.

The report says that using awards or recognition for improving test scores can provide incentives to cheat. Its survey found that 24 states reported either providing awards or special recognition based on student test scores, 24 states reported linking test scores to teacher performance evaluations, and 9 states reported linking test scores to promotions.

The report warned that cheating can damage test validity and reliability. It said that without greater test security measures, there is a higher risk that decisions based on test results may be faulty, and lead to damaging results, including failing to identify and provide resources for underperforming schools and students most in need of academic support.

States reported using various tools, such as statistical analyses of student data, monitoring, and audits of testing procedures, to oversee districts’ implementation of test security policies and procedures. Most states have used this oversight to identify cheating in recent years.

States reported receiving assistance with test security from several sources, with testing contractors being the most frequent source of support. States also identified areas where additional assistance with test security would be useful. In particular, officials from the majority of states reported that it would be very or extremely useful if the US Education Department gathered and disseminated information on best practices in test security.

Trevor Cobbold

US Government Accountability Office, States’ Test Security Policies and Procedures Varied, May 2013

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