50 ways adults in schools ‘cheat’ on standardized tests

Here’s a list of 50-plus ways that schools manipulate standardized test scores to make the results look better than they actually are. They were compiled by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized test scores, and were taken from actual cases documented in government and reports. You can learn more here about the misuse of tests.

Pre-Testing
Fail to store test materials securely
Encourage teachers to view test forms before they are administered
Teach to the test by ignoring subjects not on exam
Drill students on actual test items
Share test items on Internet before administration
Practice on copies of previously administered “secure” tests
Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school
Hold-back low scorers from tested grade
“Leap-frog” promote some students over tested grade
Transfer likely low-scoring students to charter schools with no required tests
Push likely low scorers out of school or enroll them in GED programs
Falsify student identification numbers so low scorers are not assigned to correct demographic group
Urge low-scoring students to be absent on test day
Leave test materials out so students can see them before exam

During Testing
Let high-scorers take tests for others
Overlook “cheat sheets” students bring into classroom
Post hints (e.g. formulas, lists, etc) on walls or whiteboard
Write answers on black/white board, then erase before supervisor arrives
Allow students to look up information on web with electronic devices
Allow calculator use where prohibited
Ignore test-takers copying or sharing answers with each other
Permit students to go to restroom in groups
Shout out correct answers
Use thumbs up/thumbs down signals to indicate right and wrong responses
Tell students to “double check” erroneous responses
Give students notes with correct answers
Read “silent reading” passages out loud
Encourage students who have completed sections to work on others
Allow extra time to complete test
Leave classroom unattended during test
Warn staff if test security monitors are in school
Refuse to allow test security personnel access to testing rooms
Cover doors and windows of testing rooms to prevent monitoring
Give accommodations to students who didn’t officially request them

Post-Testing
Allow students to “make up” portions of the exam they failed to complete
Invite staff to “clean up” answer sheets before transmittal to scoring company
Permit teachers to score own students’ tests
Fill in answers on items left blank
Re-score borderline exams to “find points” on constructed response items
Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones
Provide false demographic information for test takers to assign them to wrong categories
Fail to store completed answer sheets securely
Destroy answer sheets from low-scoring students
Report low scorers as having been absent on testing day
Share content with educators/students who have not yet taken the test
Fail to perform data forensics on unusual score gains
Ignore “flagged” results from erasure analysis
Refuse to interview personnel with potential knowledge of improper practices
Threaten discipline against testing impropriety whistle blowers
Fire staff who persist in raising questions
Fabricate test security documentation for state education department investigators
Lie to law enforcement personnel

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · March 30, 2013