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Education Reporter

Testing Scandals Taint Many School Systems
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Facing pressure to show higher standardized state test scores, more than a few educators apparently cheat on exam conditions or doctor the scores in order to improve outcomes.

Texas officials in January announced a sweeping review of test security after the Dallas Morning News concluded that as many as 400 schools reported suspect scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for 2003 and 2004. The principal and two teachers at one of Houston's highest-rated elementary schools were reassigned pending the outcome of a state investigation.

Evidence of cheating included the fact that 31 of Sanderson Elementary's 38 5th-graders scored perfect or near-perfect scores on the math exam last spring, results that were substantially out of line with their past scores. The principal of Wilmer Elementary also resigned shortly after state education officials arrived to begin interviewing administrators, teachers and students about testing procedures there. (Houston Chronicle, 12-20-04)

California education department investigations over the past five years found that nearly 200 public school teachers helped students cheat on state exams by giving them hints, answers or extra time to finish. Most investigations led to reprimands and warnings, but a few teachers were fired or resigned. (sfgate.com, 6-23-04)

In Broward County, FL, 19 students alleged a 5th-grade teacher gave them answers on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and told them to keep it secret. (Naples Daily News, 3-8-04) (See Education Reporter, Mar. 2004 for earlier examples of teacher cheating.)

Grade alterations 
An Austin, TX middle school principal apologized to teachers for changing the grades of 208 students during the 2002-03 school year, causing 37 of them to pass instead of fail. (Austin American-Statesman, 4-14-04)

In Howard County, MD, a deputy superintendent was accused of using her position to have two grades changed for her teenage daughter at Centennial High School. In the same area, a varsity football student was allowed to play on the team after a failing grade was changed. That incident plus several others like it forced the Oakland Mills football team to forfeit eight victories. (Washington Post, 12-10-03)

The Minnesota education department announced it made a statistical "error in judgment" resulting in the inflation of the percentage of elementary school students who passed the 2003 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in math and reading. The mistake related to the definition of "passing," not the raw scores. (Star Tribune, 3-9-04)

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