Good News About Cheating

The Lens recently reported on the number of test administration mistakes and instances of cheating found by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) from 2010 to 2012 for public schools in New Orleans. This information was provided to The Lens by the LDOE.

Educate Now! is very encouraged by the results.

The fact that only 130 tests out of hundreds of thousands given in New Orleans over three years were voided – due to student cheating, adult cheating, or administrative errors – is very good news.

What Test Security Measures Are Used? 

In addition to investigating any complaints received, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) uses four proactive tools to deter cheating:

Erasure Analysis

The testing vendor performs erasure analysis on all tests, looking for excessive changes of answers from wrong to right. The state did not perform this analysis in 2010, but did in 2011 and 2012. This analysis flagged the alleged cheating scandal in Atlanta, where a group of administrators and teachers are accused of systematically changing student answers.

and Answer Pattern Analysis

On the open response questions, the testing vendor checks to see if students from the same classroom are over-using the same phrasing in answers or if there are unusually similar patterns in answers.

School Monitors

Every year the state assigns individuals to go to schools across the state to monitor classrooms while tests are being given. These on-site monitors can have scores voided if they uncover improprieties. Some monitors are assigned randomly, but others are assigned to schools flagged due to:

  • Abnormal Growth – schools that showed abnormal improvement the proceeding year
  • Prior Issues – schools where there are prior reports of possible cheating or irregularities
  • Other – like a low performing charter school in the renewal year of its contract

Extensive Training

The state provides extensive guidance and training to school-based personnel on proper test administration. Schools are asked to self-report mistakes in test administration. (And the data show they very often do!)

How prevalent was cheating by students or educators 

in New Orleans public schools? 

Looking at 2011
2011 has the most robust results because the state did
erasure analysis and has completed its investigations.
  • 38 tests from 4 schools were voided – out of more than 80,000 tests* given that year!
  • 34 schools were monitored, and 3 were flagged in some capacity.
For the three-year period of 2010-2012
  • A total of 130 tests were voided out of more than 240,000 tests given.
  • 33 schools had issues reported – 12 of them more than once. These issues included both problems in administering the tests as well as possible cheating.

When a test is voided due to administrative errors or cheating, the school receives a “0” for that test, which negatively impacts its School Performance Score.

Louisiana’s Test Security Policy

All districts and independent charter schools must agree to abide by the LDOE’s Test Security Policy, which outlines how tests are stored, distributed, administered, collected, etc. Some of the infractions noted by The Lens are violations of test administration policy, like giving a timed test when it is to be untimed. Many of these violations are self-reported.

Administrative errors can cause tests to be invalidated. By and large, however, these are not intentional mistakes designed to manipulate test results. New Orleans has 40,000-45,000 students, 90 schools, and more than 3,000 teachers and administrators – there are going to be occasional issues with implementation.

In the event that the state or district can prove intentional cheating by educators, the state has the ability to permanently revoke a teacher’s or administrator’s license.

What does the Legislative Auditor think of test security measures?

The Legislative Auditor reviewed the Louisiana Department of Education’s test security policy and procedures and reported in 2012 that LDOE had sufficient processes to help ensure testing data is reliable.

The Bottom Line

  • Have there been incidents of cheating in New Orleans schools? Probably yes.
  • Do we have large-scale cheating on our hands? Definitely not.
  • Can we trust the gains we have seen in student performance? Absolutely.

The debate about whether we should test, how much we should test, and what we should test will no doubt continue, but it is highly unlikely that the gains New Orleans students have achieved on state tests are due to cheating. There is no evidence of systematic cheating.

Educate Now! urges the Department of Education to maintain a firm position on test administration errors and on cheating. Our students and teachers work too hard for even the perception of cheating to taint their accomplishments.

* In 2011, over 17,000 New Orleans students grades 3-8 each took 4 tests for either LEAP or iLeap (68,000 LEAP or iLeap tests given). Close to 6,000 students grades 10 and 11 each took 2 GEE tests (12,000 GEE tests given). In addition, some EOCs were taken by 9th graders, and some GEEs were taken by 12th graders.