Has the pressure cooker of high stakes testing affected the judgment of Texas state testing officials? How did such a clear incentive to cheat escape the psychometrized psyches of the state testing establishment? Hmm.
Nick Palluth, 17, has figured out how easy it is to cheat on the state test given to about 3 million students each year. Because the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is the benchmark for public school education, he says he wants to share his findings so state officials will fix the problem.
Here’s how Nick, a Keller High School student, explains it:
“As a high school junior, we take three consecutive days of exit TAKS tests. On the first day of the tests, each student was given a test packet with all three tests and also an answer booklet for all three subjects.
“Each day we would break a seal to open the section in the test packet. By the third day, all sections were open. Each day we were given back our answer sheet. Yes, one answer sheet had all three tests on it, and no, it was not corrected in between tests.
“Now a student could easily take advantage of this. In fact, as students do, several of us would talk after each test and realize what mistakes we had made. We could very easily go in the next day and correct those mistakes.”
Nick says he didn’t cheat because he knew he was going to pass and graduate anyway. But he says he is bothered by how easy it would be.
“I wonder how many other people discovered the same thing and how many actually cheated?” he says.
When I hear this from Nick, I have a difficult time believing it. The state education system is built around these tests. Surely state officials, worried about test security after recent findings of cheating in the Dallas and Houston school districts, wouldn’t give students the previous days’ tests and their same answer sheets back, along with a pencil and an eraser?
That’s like giving a big slice of pizza to a hungry teenager and saying, “Don’t eat this.”
Well, get this: The state does give the equivalent of pizza to hungry students.
A Texas Education Agency official confirms that high school sophomores and juniors, for example, do take math, science and social studies tests on three consecutive days. They do get all their tests in one booklet, which is returned to them each day. They do use the same answer sheet all three days.
TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe tells The Watchdog: “Theoretically, a student could do what you’re describing. It’s a violation of test security, and if a school district is aware of that, they’re supposed to report it to us.
“We occasionally get reports of a situation like this, but not frequent reports. And the test monitor could face some kind of sanction if they permitted this to go on.”
Sanctions? How about rewards? Students get to move on if they pass the test, and there's from 2 to 10 grand on the line for those teachers with big scores. You tell me where the incentives are.