Could This Be The Year?

Written by  Dr. John Fremer, Ph.D., President, Caveon Consulting Services

For decades, the amount of cheating and test piracy in high stakes testing has grown dramatically. If you feel that you need a reference for that statement, then you don’t have a TV, newspapers, or access to the Internet. If you still need a reference, you also need an education as to what has been going on in the field of testing.

Could 2013 be the “turn around year” for reducing cheating and piracy? Workers in our industry have been striving diligently to bring this about. I would so much like to see this outcome that I have to be cautious about my perception. When we really want to see something, we tend to see it even when no one else can. (Think of your friend or relative who wants to tell you once again how their partner or child has “turned the corner” despite evidence to the contrary.)

What am I seeing that gives me hope? The testing and professional industries are stepping up to the challenge. Look at the Association of Test Publisher’s program for this year’s conference. Look at the ads for Test Security Director positions at certification agencies. . Search the Internet for “cheating on tests” and see the huge number of hits. (Don’t search for “cheating” alone, as you will find discouraging amounts of information related to other forms of cheating.) Look at the document Testing and Data Integrity in the Administration of Statewide Student Assessment Programs issued by the NCME in October, 2012. Notice that 2012 was the first ever Conference on Statistical Detection of Potential Test Fraud. The University of Wisconsin, Madison will host a follow up conference in October 2013.

I also see benefits from the many stories in the media about cheating by educators. If you are a teacher or administrator with any role in large scale state testing, you cannot help but be aware of tales about dishonest educators who were caught and have had to pay for their transgressions. The proportion of non-compliant school staff has never been large when it comes to following test administration procedures. However, when you consider a drop from 1% to ½ of 1% of these teachers and administrators, that’s quite a large reduction in the total amount of cheating.

I am also very heartened by the fact that two projects that I am associated with will lead to publications within the next two months. February 2013 is the release date for Preventing, Detecting and Investigating Test Security Irregularities: A Comprehensive Guidebook on Test Security for States (CCSSO Technical Issues in Large Scale Assessment). Dr. John Olson has been the lead on this project. I have had the privilege of participating; with both of us assisted by a TILSA work group of states. In March 2013, the Handbook of Test Security will be published by Routledge. Dr. Jim Wollack, University of Wisconsin, Madison is the Senior Editor and I am Junior Editor.) The mere fact that these publications, involving so many leaders in assessment, are becoming available is indicative of the importance that our profession attaches to promoting fairness and validity in testing. There is now widespread and growing awareness that preventing and detecting cheating on high stakes tests is not discretionary, but essential to the value and reputation of a testing program.

The factors I mention above make me optimistic about our progress in defending our tests and programs against cheating and theft. We will need to maintain a high level of focused effort to ensure that integrity in testing remains high this year, and for years to come.

If you are headed to the ATP Conference in Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale, feel free to look me up. I am always interested in talking test security.

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