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Is Online Standardized Testing the Key to Ending Cheating?

In the wake of Atlanta's massive scandal, why aren't more states copying the SAT and GRE and moving their high stakes tests online?



With 178 educators implicated in Atlanta's massive standardized test cheating scandal, the integrity of high-stakes testing is coming under scrutiny. At the heart of the scandal: The allegation that teachers, school testing coordinators and principals erased student's incorrect answers and bubbled in correct responses. Atlanta isn't alone.

In my days working in schools, many teachers told me a similar story: Students they knew couldn't read on grade level somehow scored well on the reading comprehension sections of state tests. These teachers assumed that someone had gone through the testing booklet, erased the wrong answers, and penciled in the correct ones. Erasure patterns suggest that similar activity is happening in schools from Washington, D.C. to Houston.

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Is Everyone Destined to Cheat?

Two hundred business school students recently admitted to cheating on a midterm after listening to their professor's plea to come forward. Would you?


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After listening to the above lecture by their professor, Richard Quinn, 200 business students in a class of 600 at the University of Central Florida recently admitted to cheating on their midterm exam. The discovery of widespread cheating left Quinn, "physically ill, absolutely disgusted, completely disillusioned, and trying to figure out what the last 20 years was for."

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One of this week's conversations over at The New York Times' Room for Debate blog concerns the so-called "epidemic" of cheating. A recent survey of high school students done by researchers at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that the majority of students engaged in behaviors that are considered to be cheating—but in other cases took actions that would traditionally be considered dishonest, but which they did not consider wrong.

An English professor at Emory University, Mark Bauerlein, blames the Internet, in part, for the phenomenon, since it encourages a culture of idea-sharing. Blogging, for instance, requires the sharing of other people's thoughts (as I'm doing now, though with attribution). However, with so many different forms of sharing taking place on the web, Bauerlein writes, students can get confused on the true rules. Cheating-via-sharing is thus a "survival skill" in this new world. One problem, however: "On that model, though, knowledge isn't absorbed and interpreted. It is retrieved and passed along," he explains.

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