Posts Tagged ‘Cheating’

Teachers, school systems cheat on tests

April 7, 2011

President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program created financial penalties for public schools with inferior test scores.  President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program creates financial rewards for public schools that achieve superior test scores.

The predictable result:  Widespread cheating on tests by teachers and school administrators.  In Washington, D.C., the system winked at teachers who erased wrong answers and substituted correct answers.  In New York City, the tests themselves were dumbed down so as to make it easier to generate higher scores.

I don’t believe in high-stakes testing, but if you’re going to have it, there have to be safeguards against cheating.  At the very least, the tests should be drafted and administered by someone who is not accountable to the administrators of the system being tested.

Click on When test scores seem too good to believe for the opening report in a series in USA Today on schools that cheat on tests.

Click on When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real? for the USA Today series report on faked test scores in Washington, D.C., under ballyhooed chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Click on USA Today series forces look at cheating for Jay Matthews’ summary of the USA Today series in the Washington Post.

Click on New York’s school testing con for a New York Post report on how New York City tests were dumbed down in order to improve test results.

Click on Whistle-blowing teachers targeted for a report on how the Atlanta school system retaliated against teachers who reported systematic cheating.

Click on Ga. gives D.C. pointers in probe of school cheating for a USA Today followup on what to do about the Washington, D.C., cheating scandal.

Click on L.A. school board to close six charter schools caught cheating for a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Click on Cheat Sheet – Under Pressure, Educators Tamper With Test Scores for a roundup in the New York Times about school system cheating nationwide.

Click on How Schools Cheat for a comprehensive report by Reason magazine dating from 2005.

I found most of these links on Bob Somerby’s The Daily Howler web log, an excellent daily commentary on the press with frequent reports on misreporting of education issues.


Dukenfield’s Law of Incentive Management

August 15, 2010

Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, is a temporary guest-blogger for Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic Monthly.  He wrote a post on Friday about scandals in which educators were caught falsifying results of tests used to measure school performance and, in the process, came up with a new sociological “law.”

Mark Kleiman

A school superintendent allowing his staff to doctor students’ answers on a set of high-stakes standardized exams has something in common with a corporate CEO holding a bundle of stock options who practices “earnings management” via bogus asset sales. Each is responding to an intense incentive system by faking success rather than producing it.

One could formulate this as a general principle: any incentive to create a result also creates an incentive to simulate the same result. The corollary is obvious: the greater the incentive, the greater the temptation. Or, as W. C. Fields put it in You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, “If a thing is worth winning, it’s worth cheating for.” Borrowing Fields’s real name, I propose to call this generalization Dukenfield’s Law of Incentive Management. Designers of control systems ignore Dukenfield’s Law at their peril, and ours.

A second corollary follows directly from the first: holding the level of audit effort constant and other things equal, the reliability of a measure will decline as the importance attached to it grows. To put the same thing another way: to maintain a given level of reliability, the resources invested in verifying any performance measure need to rise roughly in proportion to the stakes involved

via The Atlantic. (my bold-facing)