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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Florida's cheating scandal makes national news

From the Washington Post

by Valerie Strauss

I can’t get away from it.

Even on vacation, on a small island off the west coast of Florida, the local news tells me about a cheating scandal on the state’s main standardized test.

According to various Florida media outlets, 14 counties have been ordered by state officials to look for cheating on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, the exam that more than 4 million students took during the school year.

According to WPTV, a security system that checked all of the tests flagged more than 7,000 as suspicious — 6,967 of them for similarities in results and 864 fora high amount of erasures.

The Naples News reported that Florida officials had contracted with Caveon Test Security to examine all of the tests .

Wait, that sounds familiar. Why? Well, it's happened before in Florida with the FCAT.

But, too, Caveon was the company that found suspicious irregularities in the standardized tests taken in the D.C. public school system over a few years. Investigators have launched a probe following suggestions that there was widespread cheating in the District during the tenure of former chancellor Michelle Rhee.

The only thing I can take away from the confluence of my vacation and the Florida testing allegations is that cheating scandals are so commonplace in this era of high-stakes standardized testing that there’s a new one every time you turn around.

Yes, I know: Kids have been cheating on tests forever.

But now we have teachers (and even principals) who are allegedly helping them cheat because of the new trend to evaluate educators on the basis of how well their students do on these tests. It’s not a fair way to evaluate teachers (hungry, sick, anxious and uninterested kids probably won’t do well on a test, and teachers can’t necessarily address all those problems), but that hasn’t stopped state after state from adopting the approach, with the blessing of the Obama administration.

If the repeated cheating scandals don’t serve as some kind of warning to those who support using these tests as the heart of school accountability, I’m not sure what will.

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