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January 19, 2018
Why one Harvard professor calls American schools’ focus on testing a ‘charade’
Harvard professor Daniel Koretz is on a mission: to convince policymakers that standardized tests have been widely misused.
September 15, 2015
Cheating allegations rise under de Blasio, continuing a Bloomberg-era trend
The allegations come as the city has scrambled to respond to a string of reports this year involving academic fraud and grade inflation.
August 18, 2015
Testing spikes and nosedives: What does it all mean?
With dozens of Tennessee schools logging double-digit test score gains and losses this year, a Vanderbilt researcher warns against drawing quick conclusions.
July 7, 2015
UPDATED: Shelby County Schools one of two districts under review for TCAP cheating
The state is investigating Alcy and LaRose elementary schools in Shelby County, among other schools, for potential cheating on their 2013-14 state achievement tests.
February 25, 2015
ISTEP cheating bill dies but idea could be revived, author says
Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, wants Indiana to look more closely for schools with odd state test results that might suggest cheating, but a bill he…
August 30, 2013
Report faults former Stuyvesant principal in cheating scandal
An investigation into cheating at the elite Stuyvesant High School ended with a scathing conclusion: Former principal Stanley Teitel mishandled cheating allegations and downplayed the scandal to officials. Sleepy proctoring and coordinated text messaging helped dozens of students initially get away with sharing final exam questions on their phones during June 2012 Regents and final exams, according to a report by the Office of Special Investigations, which was released publicly this afternoon (but dated Nov. 5, 2012). But it was how Teitel responded once he learned of the incident that "showed an extreme lack of judgement," investigators wrote. News of the scandal struck a chord when it broke last year in part because it happened at Stuyvesant, an ultra-competitive high school that accepts only students who score the very highest on an eighth grade admissions exam. It put a spotlight light on what some students at the school described as a culture of cheating caused by unrelenting pressure to succeed. A first phase of the investigation, finished last year, ended in the suspension of 66 students. Teitel, a 41-year veteran of the school system who helmed Stuyvesant for 13 years, retired in September 2012 amid the investigation into the role of administrators and teachers.
April 17, 2013
Efforts to boost test security leave proctoring rules unchanged
Most students taking this week's state reading test are doing so under the watchful eyes of their regular classroom teacher. Teachers proctor their own students' exams in most schools, in an arrangement that is logistically simple and keeps students calm — but also represents a soft spot in the state's efforts to prevent cheating. As part of its recent efforts to safeguard against fraud, New York State has reduced educators' access to tests before they are administered and increased scrutiny on tests after they are returned to see whether answers were changed unusually often. The latter measure, known as erasure analysis, helped investigators uncover adult cheating in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., in recent years. But even as the state has taken steps to prevent improprieties at a time when ensuring that scores accurately reflect student performance is increasingly important, it has left proctoring relatively unregulated. Erasure analysis and pre-test security can't reveal whether students were advised to check their work on specific questions or, more egregiously, were actually given the answers while they took the tests. "Test administration with educators proctoring their own students is one of the weak links in the testing process," said Greg Cizek, a professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in educational measurement and test security.
January 28, 2013
Previously unreleased reports reveal familiar test security issues
City educators gave out answers to state test questions, inflated Regents exam scores, and coached students to change incorrect responses dozens of times in recent years, according to reports from a slew of investigations into test improprieties. Responding to a Freedom of Information Law request by GothamSchools for information about complaints about test security, the Department of Education released 97 reports from investigations that concluded violations had taken place. The reports were completed between 2006 and 2012 by the Department of Education's Office of Special Investigations and the independent Special Commissioner of Investigation. Thirty-eight of the reports documented relatively minor violations of administrative protocol. In multiple cases, for example, investigators found that teachers had photocopied exam books when there were too few before getting official permission. But 59 of the reports substantiated allegations about cheating, some of them serious. One of the people found to have participated in cheating in a newly released report told GothamSchools today that an administrative trial ultimately concluded that no misconduct had taken place. The department did not immediately provide details about what happened in the cases after the investigations were over.
November 27, 2012
With old concerns still unresolved, six schools get new grades
Brooklyn's School for International Studies is among the schools under investigation over its 2010-2011 progress report data. Last year, the Department of Education withheld progress reports from seven schools because their data raised red flags. At the time, officials said the irregularities could have been caused by innocuous reporting errors. But they said the suspicious data could also reflect cheating. The department makes important decisions about which schools should be closed, and which principals should receive pay boosts, based on the progress reports. Investigations were launched. And a year later, all but one of the schools have new progress reports, released yesterday, but still don't have their 2010-2011 reports. At a briefing on this year's progress report release, department officials said those investigations are still unresolved, and they're opening up a new one at a Bronx high school accused of fudging its numbers. "The goal of the investigation is to get it right," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said, explaining why the investigators have so far taken more than a year to look into the irregularities. "We're going to take the time we need to get it right."
November 9, 2012
Filling test security position, city seeks to boost monitoring
After slashing its test monitoring program in the face of budget cuts this year, the Department of Education is now making plans to build it back up. The department is looking to hire a new test security chief and triple the number of schools that it sends monitors into, according to a job ad that appeared online this week. The person who formerly occupied the position is retiring this fall, department officials said. In 2011, the city monitored 97 elementary and middle schools during state testing days as part of a program that was meant to deter staff from violating test security guidelines. In 2012, the program shrank and monitors visited just 37 schools, most of which were already under investigation for cheating. Chancellor Dennis Walcott blamed the reduction on budget cuts. Now for the 2013 exams, the city is putting renewed attention on test security, according to details provided in the job ad. Key responsibilities for the new test security chief include creating a "unique" list of at least 100 schools every year that would be monitored by about 50 people, the ad says. The manager would also recruit and train monitors, then disperse them to schools during the testing period.
October 25, 2012
City: Rate of just-passing Regents scores has dropped by half
Percentage of Regents exams scoring exactly 65, from 2010 to 2012. A series of changes to the way Regents exams are graded has dramatically slimmed down the number of scores that are exactly passing, according to the Department of Education. In 2010, 7 percent of exams citywide received the lowest passing score, a 65. This year, that proportion was just 3.5 percent, officials said. The number of 65s awarded on the five exams required for graduation rose sharply between 2006 and 2009. The recent decline came as the city implemented several new rules prompted by the bulge in the number of 65s, which suggested that teachers might be bumping up the scores of students on the verge of passing, sometimes illicitly. Department officials said the reduction in the number of 65s showed that the policy changes had successfully curbed incentives to pad students' scores. "Even if the higher percentage of 65s wasn’t due to intentional cheating but well-meaning people making sure kids have the best chance to graduate, what we see … is that there isn’t that incentive to push a score to 65," said Deputy Chief Academic Officer Adina Lopatin. The department released the data in response to a new report by the Independent Budget Office that looks at Regents passing patterns for students who entered high school in 2005. Confirming conventional wisdom and a slew of recent studies, the report found that the more Regents exams a student had passed early in high school, the more likely he was to graduate on time.
October 10, 2012
Most monitored schools were flagged for cheating in advance
All but four of the three dozen schools that monitors visited in April as part of the city's test security program had previously been the subject of cheating allegations. Last spring, the Department of Education sent test monitors into 37 schools during a six-day period when students take standardized state tests, the results of which weigh heavily in how schools and teacher performances are measured. Officials had previously billed the visits as a randomized tool to deter school staff from violating test security guidelines. "Even schools that don’t actually get a visit ... know that they could get a visit at any moment," spokeswoman Connie Pankratz said of the program in August. But it turns out that 33 of the 37 schools were not randomly selected at all, according to officials. Instead, the department was taking a hard look at the test administration practices of schools where it had already dispatched investigators to look into allegations of cheating.
October 3, 2012
Failing grade follows drop in scores, probes at Choir Academy
A year after its principal was removed amid an investigation into cheating fraud, the middle school at Choir Academy of Harlem saw its city evaluation tumble. In falling from a B in 2011 to a F this year, Choir Academy was one of 10 schools to see its progress report grade drop by three letter grades, a jarring change in a year when city officials touted the relative year-to-year stability of its progress reports. Update: The city released a shortlist of schools it would consider closing this afternoon. Choir Academy was not on the list. The school was included on the city's second list, which was released days later. Parents and staff at the troubled school said on Monday that Choir Academy is back on track this year because it has a new principal. Melissa Vaughan abruptly replaced Andrea Ellen Parris in January when Parris was denied tenure after four years at the school. Under Parris, the school significantly improved its graduation rate and test scores, but a department spokeswoman said today that investigators had spent most of the last two years looking into allegations of cheating.
September 17, 2012
NY Mag looks at Stuyvesant culture in light of cheating scandal
This week's issue of New York Magazine has an in-depth profile of Nayeem Ahsan, the 16-year-old Stuyvesant High School student who helmed the school's recent cheating scandal. Last June, school officials caught Ahsan using his cell phone to help dozens of students cheat on Regents exams, which students must take before graduating. Since then, the city has launched an investigation and threatened many of the students involved with lengthy suspensions. And the school's principal has retired, to be replaced by a former network leader who is also a Stuyvesant parent. In the wake of these events, many GothamSchools readers told us that cheating is more widespread than officials would admit, and expressed suspicions of Principal Jie Zhang's suggestion that the cheating ring was an isolated incident. “I have not been made aware … or have a reason to believe that there is ongoing cheating there," Zhang told reporters in a phone call shortly after being appointed. The magazine piece also suggests otherwise. In addition to detailing Ahsan's methods, which included sharing homework answers, procuring exams given by teachers in previous years, and texting students photos of entire exam booklets during last spring's Regents exams, it describes a culture that encouraged cheating among many. Ahsan said Stuyvesant's educational environment put a premium on high-performance and competition. The structure of his classes often presented opportunities to game the system:
September 7, 2012
Dozens of Stuyvesant HS students suspended for cheating
A dozen Stuyvesant High School students will be suspended for as long as two weeks and more than 50 others could face short-term suspension for cheating. The punishments are only one component of the school's renewed response to a broad cheating scandal that broke this summer. Stuyvesant's new principal, Jie Zhang, is also requiring students to sign on to an academic honesty policy, urging the creation of an "honor code," and cracking down on student cell phones. Department of Education officials announced in July that they had determined that 71 students had cheated on final exams, with all but two receiving answers in advance to a city Spanish exam. They said at the time that a student who provided the answers would be suspended and not allowed to return to the school, the city's most elite. They also said more punishments could come this fall but did not say how many students faced suspension. Today, the city announced that the number is 66. Zhang informed the students and their families today about the suspensions, which for some students will start on Monday. A second phase in the department's investigation into the cheating, which is ongoing, is looking at the school's original response. The department did not learn about the cheating until nearly a week after then-Principal Stanley Teitel sent a letter to parents informing them that some students had been punished, and the penalties the school levied did not match those outlined in the city’s discipline code.
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