Cheating: It’s not just Atlanta schools

Signs of cheating, such as test scores that go up sharply one year and crash the next, can be found in nearly 200 large school districts nationwide, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis.

As Atlanta learned after cheating was uncovered in half its elementary and middle schools last year, falsified test results deny struggling students access to extra help to which they are entitled, and erode confidence in a vital public institution.

. . . In nine districts, scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion.In Houston, for instance, test results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year, the analysis shows. When children moved to a new grade the next year, their scores plummeted — a finding that suggests the gains were not due to learning.

In 33 districts, the odds the tests results were valid were worse than one in a million.

Here’s a map showing districts in which more than 10 percent of schools reported suspicious results.


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  1. In Texas, our superintendent had to appear on the news reveal the results of past investigations to show that the admin is “on top of it.”

    Most of us had no idea the number of schools and teachers involved. And we work for them.

    So kudos to AJC for some transparency, reaching all the way to Texas.

  2. It seems as if cheating is becoming more and more common, but in reality, the only ones who lose when cheating is uncovered are taxpayers, employers, businesses, and the public at large.

    When I attended public school, the penalty for being caught cheating on an exam was to receive a big fat ZERO for the exam, and usually, the people in your class found out about it in a hurry.

    • Genevieve says:

      I would guess it isn’t the students cheating. Sounds like the adults.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      When I was in school, cheating was a suspension-worthy offense, in addition to the “F”.

      Now, to get suspended, you have to do something *really* insane like bring a butter knife for your mayonnaise.

  3. Jeff Smith says:

    Funny, I’m almost sure that when I looked at that map yesterday there were three Tennessee systems listed. Today there’s only one. Wonder what happened?

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    Adults gaming the education test scores system is not exactly new…

    An article written in 2005 about cheating from the mid-1980s …

  5. The simplest explanation is the tests are so flawed they don’t give valid results.

    • If by “simplest” you mean “most naive,” I concur.

      • Umm, I’d go with “most self-serving”.

      • I disagree with both of you. Here in Texas the passing scores are manipulated by the politicians and what message they wish to portray. When W was running for President, the passing score on most Math tests from the state was in the neighborhood of 57%.

        When the governor wants to get tough the passing scores are jacked up to nearly 80%, so he can justify attacks on the schools.

        • Sean Mays says:

          But 80% of what? If you change the test bank and make the questions easier, you could create the illusion of “getting tough” while actually watering down the standards. There are multiple levels of manipulation available. Do we know that the test bank is of essentially the same difficulty?

  6. One of the commenters said good edcucators ‘had no choice’ but to make up for poor teachers. They certainly had a choice and made the wrong one.