I wrote a few days ago about a new report, “Kentucky State Testing for Education Accountability: An Examination of Security-related Threats to Making Valid Inferences and Suggested Best Practices” from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission (LRC). This report examines the current situation with testing security in Kentucky and makes recommendations about how to more effectively detect and deal with cheating.
One of the more disturbing parts of the study is an analysis of unusual changes in Kentucky Core Content Test scores in some Kentucky schools. The LRC’s new report found 25 un-named Kentucky schools that showed very unusual test score patterns on state tests between 2009 and 2010 (Page vi in the report). That is disturbing.
While unusual test score changes are not proof of actual cheating, finding unusual score patterns in other places has stimulated further forensic investigation. One example is Atlanta, Georgia, now reeling from confirmation that massive cheating actually did occur.
In a somewhat similar situation, unusual test scores for individual students triggered an ACT investigation that confirmed cheating in Perry County Central High School. Several educators in Perry County have already had official state action taken against their educator certificates. The school also paid a penalty with drastically reduced test scores.
Until this year, Kentucky relied mostly on whistle-blowers and the coincidental, non-systematic discovery of unusual test score shifts for its test security program (Page vi in the LRC report). Per the LRC report (Page 7), that led to 91 suspected testing violation cases since 2000 being opened, and in 32 of those cases sufficient problems were discovered to require action. In nine of those cases, educational certificates were suspended for a time. In one severe case, a license was revoked.
Still, partly because anecdotal information indicates that even basically honest teachers are afraid to speak out about wrong-doing, reliance on such a system is inadequate. So far, I am unaware of any forensic investigation of the 25 schools that had unusual test score shifts per the LRC report. Given what happened in Atlanta, Perry County and elsewhere, maybe there needs to be one.