Investigation of Standardized-Test Cheating Finds "Troubling Patterns" in Dallas ISD Scores

scantron1.jpg
Scantrons give us the willies.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a sweeping investigation over the weekend of possible cheating on standardized tests in dozens of school districts across the country, and Dallas Independent School District made an appearance.

The AJC examined test results for 69,000 schools in 49 states and found "high concentrations of suspect scores" in about 200 schools. DISD was one of about 13 school districts in North Texas that was named as potentially suspicious, with 10 percent or more of their classes flagged for unusually high or low performances.

DISD isn't denying the allegations just yet. But DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander told Unfair Park this morning the district has worked "aggressively" to combat test fraud for the last eight years and defended the current policies in place to detect cheating. "We have in place a really good process right now" to ferret out suspicious scores, he said.

Dallas was one of nine cities that the AJC singled out for test patterns that "defy statistical probability." They write that in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011, 242 classes "exhibited suspicious scores," where around 130 would normally be expected. The AJC places the odds of that happening without cheating at about 1 in 100 billion.

In their its analysis of Dallas, the AJC also referenced the Roslyn Carter scandal, in which a DISD principal was found to have only taught math and reading while fabricating science and social studies scores. Carter was, of course, recently fired from her new gig in Washington after officials there became aware of her doings in Dallas. They also say that there are "high stakes" in Dallas schools because of the bonuses some teachers receive for good test performances from their students.

"While the analysis doesn't prove cheating," the AJC writes, "it found troubling patterns in hundreds of cities. Those patterns resemble early indicators in Atlanta that ultimately led to the biggest cheating scandal in American history."

But DISD spokesperson Dahlander says "test security has been a major initiative for us for several years," adding in an email:

Dallas ISD aggressively stepped up its approach to test security when irregularities were first reported eight years ago. Teachers are no longer allowed to administer state tests or other secure exams for their own classes and testing is monitored by central staff to make certain that testing procedures are followed. In addition, Dallas ISD evaluates and analyzes results to identify and investigate test anomalies. We believe we are one of the few districts in the state of Texas to conduct this kind of analysis.

When an anomaly is identified, the district works closely with the Texas Education Agency to investigate further. This is what happened in the case of test irregularities at Lang Middle School in 2009. The district discovered the anomalies, reported them to the state and went to great lengths to retest students over the summer.

Dallas ISD has taken personnel action, up to and including termination, on individuals who have violated testing procedures even as recently as this school year.

Dahlander says that they'd like to know if the AJC has identified specific classrooms where suspicious activity is taking place, so DISD can go in and investigate further. But he added that the district already rigorously screen test scores from each campus. "They may not understand the nuances in our school district," he said of the AJC. "They're looking at it from a 30,000 foot level and we're looking at it form a campus-by-campus level." He denied that financial incentives based on test scores might induce teachers to try to game the system: "That's possible, but I don't think that's a major driving factor."

"We'd certainly like to see more information and we'll try to contact them," Dahlander said. "But there are probably hundreds of school districts trying to do the same thing.
We've put in place all of these safeguards in Dallas. I really do think we're ahead of the curve."

He also sent along DISD's test security manual from fall 2011, which we've appended for your perusal.

The AJC report has already become national news, with a Georgia Senator and the president of the American Federation of Teachers both calling for further investigation.

DISD Test Security Manual Fall 2011[4][2] (1)


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29 comments
Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

The easiest ways to stop the cheating are to quit placing such a high value on ONE test. Quit floating the idea of tying OUR pay to it. The more we test, the less they learn.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

Teachers cheat because they receive bonuses?

Haven't seen or heard of a teacher bonus in 6 years. Now the elementary principals get a $10,000 bonus if the campus is 'Recognized." So where do you think the incentive for cheating is?

And who has the keys to the secure location?

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Of course, there's that other troubling pattern--the part where they pretty much suck.

Jedis54
Jedis54

Several of my Eastern Star sisters are educators.  I always ask them "Why does a school district have two standardized tests...1 at the beginning of the school year and 1 and the end?"  See what the kids have learned, then form your lesson plans on that information.  Then see what they have learned at the end of the school year.   This is why I totally believe that public education should be handled on a local level and not on a state or federal level.  There is no effective way to measure what a student has learned.  Its totally frustrating to me as a parent.

Thinking Like a Cheater
Thinking Like a Cheater

I think its hard to cheat on these tests and whomever does it would have to be pretty b@480a0533fb542e9a959bd85de85ae7fb:disqus llsy to do it - 1) Teachers do not administer to their own students/subjects. So if the administering teacher is altering tests it would be for another teachers benefit. Would two teachers "collaborate" - I'll change your kids answers if you change mine? I worked in an elementary school for 8 years and think that is HIGHLY unlikely. If a teacher DID cheat, it would have to be without the kids knowing about it because kids tell. 2) Unless there is an administer creating a culture of cheating - which is what happened in Atlanta - from the very top down - I cant see a whole school wide effort to blatantly cheat.3) The only thing that I COULD see is that someone with keys and access to locked, completed tests and had an opportunity to be alone with the tests would change answers - a test coordinator or an administrator. They would either have to be committed to cheating every year (so scores didnt drop) or would do it at 5th grade and 8th grade (kids go to someone elses school the following year). It would be interesting to see if the "falling" scores were largely at 6th and 8th grade.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Now if  the students were all standardized at the beginning of the year.....Testing would be much easier.

The one thing I have noticed about  " MATRIX  style testing Process "  as in using many items to measure performance is the idea seems to be based on ordinary folks being honest. 

But factor in all the Other Bull Sh*T that comes alone like the consequences of failing . And honesty kind of falls to the way side and survival instinct kicks in .

Its not limited to teaching .

Numbers can be massaged to do anything .

As for testing ? The E Learning courses where I work are crafted in such a way sections and test questions are randomized so it difficult to cheat .Cheating would take as much if not more time than just doing the course .So why bother ?

 

 

Concerned1961
Concerned1961

I heard that too wegotherout...the one they put on leave. So sad. 

Wegotherout
Wegotherout

i heard the principal at field committed suicide last week because of all of the media attention

CR
CR

It's DISD still policing DISD whether you have "central staff" or teachers monitoring the testing.  You can add more rules and regulations on paper but no good if they still going to slack on enforcement and put no teeth in it or simply deny cheating exists.  DISD should not be overseeing its own testing as if "central staff" are independent auditors.

james
james

 "DISD was one of about 13 school districts in North Texas that was named as potentially suspicious, with 10 percent or more of their classes flagged for unusually high or low performances." ...mebbe i'm jist dumb here, but why would unusually LOW scores (which is almost certainly what put DISD in their crosshairs) indicate cheatin'?............... i'm imaginin' angry teachers who know they're are leavin'  DISD an' wanna leave 'em lookin' like the low scorin' bad performin' school they are? as if DISD needed any help lookin' bad?....mebbe i'm graspin' at straws, but gimme a better///any reason to cheat fer a lower test score? i jist wanna fail/ git fired? with that kinda mentality, how much stock are we gonna put in these...'investigators'??!! i suspicion that mass test cheatin' is less a problem than the pocket linin'  'trustees' as them crooks are called that fuckover the hardworkin' teachers with ever' fuckin' breath.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

ITBS is the only test that will compare your child to other children across the US.

These individual state tests are worthless--except to the testing industry.

Michael Talley
Michael Talley

Didn't we see this years ago in Freakonomics?  If they are not vigilant, the cheaters will continue to cheat.  And, why shouldn't they, since they are concentrating on the wrong metrics.

Not a Team Player
Not a Team Player

Hey Joe Nathan, it's easy for you to down on someone from afar, but the way you did it was childish and cowardly.  I doubt your man enough to show your face in the daylight, much less post a comment that is not obviously gender biased, sexist, and overtly ignorant. You are pure trash, and deserve less than being pissed on, as you lie burning in your own self hating filth.  Get some class, or get  the hell  off this blog.  

Sloppy Joe Nathan
Sloppy Joe Nathan

The inside of Dallas schools is like the inside of Anna's underwear. You know it'd be nasty if it was ever exposed. You certainly don't want your kids near it. Both provide a service to the black community, but at what cost to their future? And despite all this, some schmuck out there will still be dumb enough to throw money at it.

Anna, I apologize. That was unacceptable.

East Dallas Dad
East Dallas Dad

DISD spokesperson Dahlander says "test security has been a major initiative for us for several years,"... Dahlander says that they'd like to know if the AJC has identified specific classrooms where suspicious activity is taking place, so DISD can go in and investigate further.

So wait a minute. DISD supposedly has a secure testing program in place and monitors the testing closely yet needs the AJC to tell them which classrooms suspicious activity took place in? Am I the only person that finds those two statements troubling?

AlexBreeze
AlexBreeze

"There is no effective way to measure what a student has learned". What utter nonsense.

That is EXACTLY what testing and assignment-giving does!!!

Life is a competition. The smartest kids and those not-so-smart, studious, extra-hard working kids do better on tests. They do better on University entrance tests. They do better on assignments and exams at University. They get better degrees. They get better jobs. They do better and work and get promoted/reach higher levels of success more often. They earn more money. Life.

A competition. Study and do well. Don't study, do poorly.

Testing is essential and MEASURES  (i.e. TESTS) WHAT A STUDENT HAS LEARNED.

Testing = measuring.Measuring = testing.

What should frustrate you as parent is the fact the you may have passed on such nonsense, illogical thinking as contained in your comment, to your children.

teacher
teacher

So who's going to administer tests?  Are the teachers in Plano coming to Dallas? Then who will administer the Plano ones?   Every teacher in every district across the state administers test.  It's a logistic nightmare, but standardized testing already shuts down the school for days on end and teachers are displaced in classrooms that are not their own.  If the teachers aren't monitoring the test, who is?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

A kid that goes from high or even average to super low is an indication of past cheating.

Surely the reporters took into account that in election years, the bulk of the tests are pretty easy or have repeat questions.  That will give false gains.

You are right that angry teachers on their way out the door will happily tank a school to get back at a principal.  

The district stupidly gave up to $10K to retiring teachers last year with absolutely no strings regarding TAKS attached.  There was zero incentive for fed-up teachers to give a flip about test scores.  And many of them didn't.

Shelley
Shelley

I've often wondered the exact same thing. How about a follow-up on Pinkston cheaters and Tony Mitchell, Observer?

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

Yes - because you got the statements wrong.You said that DISD "needs the AJC to tell them...".They don't need that and never claimed to..

The assertion you disagree with here is your own.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 FALSE.  There is no reward for high scorers who are free, independent, critical thinkers.  In fact our politics and business have so intertwined that sophism rules the day.  Frank honesty is a fire-able offense.  You play along to get along.  Never rock the boat.  Everything is bought and paid for. 

CR
CR

Maybe a special agency independent of the school districts should administer testing if teachers and other district personnel can't be trusted?

james
james

alternatively, a kid with sinkin' scores could be on drugs, gang bangin, or jist plain tired of tryin' in a school they probably feel is a waste of time(like i did 100 years ago). i'd b'lieve these were as likely to be the case...unless they jist done real good one time...after bad scores always...but breakin' it down to that detail would require havin' ever' kids test results virtually ferever...i'm sure a few pissed off sick of gittin' screwed teachers   will do that, but i would think, only a few...but ...am i wrong now...DISD has been workin' overtime to make folks think they suck, ain't they? our 'trustees' must hate their customers. ifn i treated my customers like that, they'd all fire me an' i'd hafta git....a haircut an' a bath an' a real job. i'll be votin' against the incumbent ever' chance i git.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

I believe this is in response to a comment so gross it got taken down in about five minutes. So quick. Like a shooting star. A really, really filthy shooting star. 

james
james

no carrollton farmers branch.

chickenpants
chickenpants

Based on your writing skills I assume you went to DISD?

scottindallas
scottindallas

 but, it's always most effective to commit the very same sins you're condemning, in your condemnation--that's how we know you're sincere. 

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