Learning and Cheating on Standardized Tests

I have written before about the use of standardized tests for evaluating educational progress and teacher effectiveness.

Commercial standardized tests were never developed to give feedback for educational improvement. They were designed to rank students based upon the theory that all students receive the same instruction in specified areas. They don’t.

The use of such tests promotes cheating because the teachers’  jobs often depend upon how well their students do on these tests. It almost hurts anyone who is knowledgeable about testing to see the educational establishment employing such measures.

The most recent case that came to light is an indictment against Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system. The chancellor failed to pursue evidence of cheating when she ran the District of Columbia school system. There have been sharp drops in test scores at some DC schools that were flagged in the past for high erasure rates. The four-page indictment was made public last week by PBS  educational consultant and journalist, John Merrow.

A school district consultant wrote that about 190 teachers at 70 schools—more than half the system’s campuses—may have cheated in 2008 by erasing wrong answers and filling in correct ones. Remember how many principals and teachers the former chancellor fired! No wonder professionals cheated. 

As long as test scores are being used to evaluate education and education progress, and as long as teachers and administrators are being evaluated on standardized test scores (which are invalid and are unreliable for this purpose), school cheating will continue. The system encourages it.