Looking Back at Test Security in 2012 and Forward to 2013

Written by: Dennis Maynes, Chief Scientist, Caveon Test Security

There were many notable events and occurrences with respect to test security in 2012. In fact, it may be that 2012 will be considered a pivotal year in the ongoing effort to administer tests securely and to thwart those who cheat on tests and steal test questions. First, in response to Secretary Duncan’s call for improved security of standardized test results, the US Department of Education hosted a symposium on test security in February. By doing so, the USDOE emphasized that assessments in public schools must be administered securely, if we are to trust the results. Second, the first broad-based, industry-wide conference on test security was held in May: The Conference of Statistical Detection of Potential Test Fraud at Lawrence, Kansas. Third, test security initiatives for improving and defining best practices have continued to gain momentum through the ATP/CCSSO Best Practices committee and through efforts by CCSSO’s Technical Issues in Large Scale Assessment (TILSA) group.

Of course, 2012 also saw its share of notable test security breaches. Alarmingly, the security of tests was confirmed to be breached at the nation’s nuclear facilities. The superintendent of El Paso Independent School District was convicted of criminal charges relating to test fraud on the TAKS. In a separate incident, educators who allegedly took and passed the PRAXIS exams for other teachers in three southern states were brought to trial. In the trial, FBI investigators claimed that several dozens of teachers used the service provided by these proxy test takers. Students at one of New York City’s premier high schools, Stuveysant, were discovered to have been involved in cheating. About half the members of a class of Harvard students were found to have cheated on a final exam. And, there were a considerable number of other test cheating stories.

As with other years, journalists continued to report on security breaches in standardized testing. Perhaps, of note, is the attempt by the Atlanta Journal Constitution to use a broad brush to paint a cheating label on school districts across the entire nation. The story gained some traction, but eventually fizzled. When large groups are tested it’s easy to discover anomalies in the data; it’s much harder to link them definitively to security breaches.

Looking forward to 2013, there will continue to be test security developments. In March, the Handbook of Test Security will be published by Routledge. This book brings together, with a security focus, several very important topics and authors. The second Conference of Statistical Detection of Potential Test Fraud will be held at Madison, Wisconsin in October. The TILSA committees will be releasing two important documents that have each taken more than a year to compile. Test security is definitely receiving the attention it deserves. For years, measurement specialists have stressed the importance of validity and reliability. Will 2013 be the year that security is added to that list?

On a personal note, Caveon Test Security began business operations in October, 2003. So, in 2013 Caveon will be celebrating ten years of business. We have seen many positive changes in test security in those years. We value and appreciate our clients who recognize the importance of strengthening exam security and the necessity of having dependable and trustworthy assistance in ensuring that exams are delivered fairly, securely, and with integrity. We also salute other professionals who are working very hard to ensure that test scores reflect competence and knowledge. Caveon would like to help wherever we can, so feel free to draw on us. We are “all in” in this ever-challenging endeavor.

The future of test security

 

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