Written by John Fremer, President, Caveon Consulting Services
[Author’s Note: I am going to use this blog to tell you a personal story about a foolish and dangerous mistake that I made. Then I will relate it to a critical challenge in the lives of test program managers.]
I tend to avoid thinking about things that might be unpleasant for me to confront. This caught up with me at Christmas this past year when I finally checked my blood sugar readings after weeks of saying to myself “They are probably OK. I haven’t overindulged that much.” I do know better, as do most Type 2 Diabetics like me. If you don’t control your blood sugar intake, exercise at a frequent enough level, and take the medications prescribed for you, the possible outcomes include blindness, amputations, heart attacks, and premature death. When I did go back to testing myself, the readings were way beyond “OK.” Indeed they were close to the “go immediately to an emergency room” level. I can only hope that my scare came quickly enough and my 180 degree turn around, new medical program, and other behavioral changes will minimize the harmful effects of my being so flat out dumb.
So what is the link that I want to make to managing testing programs? I feel confident saying that high stakes testing programs have people not only attempting, but successfully cheating on an ongoing basis. If you don’t evaluate your test results and testing processes thoroughly, you can avoid learning how much cheating you really have. You can say to yourself, ”It can’t be that bad, otherwise I would have noticed.” That is completely in the spirit of my own thoughtless behavior with respect to managing my own health. Don’t follow my foolish lead – step up to protect the health of your testing program. Even if you find a lot more cheating than you expected, you will have made the discovery yourself; not have it thrust upon you and quite possibly, at an exceptionally bad time. You can begin corrective action, knowing the size of the cheating problem that you are facing.
One of the nicknames for Diabetes is “The Silent Killer.” The same can be applied to the impact of cheating on a testing program. The fairness and validity of scores get compromised. There is a real risk of a program being viewed as not measuring anything or any test taker well. Don’t let this happen to you. As with me and my failure to look out for my own well-being, you do not want to be the test program manager who did not tend to the health of your testing program. You want to be the person who managed their program’s risk and maintained the good health of their testing program.