Here’s something I didn’t know: the same scanners that score standardized tests can be used to count the erasures in which answers are changed from wrong to right. Too many changes and a school or teacher can come under suspicion of cheating. That’s the case in Georgia, where nearly 200 schools are being investigated following a study by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the New York Times reports.
The study determined the average number of wrong-to-right erasures statewide for each grade and subject, and flagged any classroom with an unusually high number. For example, in fourth-grade math, students on average changed 1.8 answers from wrong to right, while one classroom that was flagged as suspicious had more than 6 such changes per student. Four percent of schools were placed in the “severe concern” category, which meant that 25 percent or more of a school’s classes were flagged. Six percent were in the “moderate concern” category, which meant that 11 percent to 25 percent of its classes were flagged, and 10 percent raised “minimal concern,” meaning 6 percent to 10 percent of its classes were flagged.
At 27 schools, 21 of which were in the Atlanta district, more than half the classes were flagged, and at four Atlanta schools more than 80 percent of the classes were flagged, the Times reports.
For a fascinating read, go to Schneier on Security, a blog on computer security issues, where commenters are picking apart the Georgia investigation. “What study has been done showing that the percentage of answers changed from wrong to right is a good indicator of cheating?” one asks.
I’m HIGHLY skeptical of the ability of scanner to determine whether or not an answer was changed. If you look at the numbers in the report closely, you’ll see that according to the scanner almost all changes were wrong to right; there were very few wrong to wrong answers recorded. That alone strikes me as wildly improbable. One big flaw of this study is that there is no evidence that took a random sample of the recorded changes and *visually inspected* those documents to determine if what the scanner was recording was in fact accurate. Don’t misunderstand. I am sure there are teachers who cheat. I’m just skeptical that this study is anything other than a witch hunt.
Other commenters suggest it would be child’s play to defeat scanning for erasures: simply fill in all the answers and erase the wrong ones.
…a smart teacher would also create erasures on wrong answers that they haven’t changed to defeat the wrong->right/right->wrong statistic. Could the analyst infer that the teacher was cheating just because an increase in erasures where there is no discernable bias in the erasures themselves? This is quickly becoming a counter-intelligence exercise.
The best comment comes from someone outside education–and the U.S. “Can someone please explain this topic to us non-Americans? I don’t understand what this is about,” he writes. ”Back when I was in school the students cheated, not teachers. Why would they do that? Makes no sense.”
Random testing, anyone?