Written by Jamie Mulkey, Vice President Client Services
Imagine my chagrin when my 13 year old 7th grader came home from school at the end of last year to tell me that her social studies teacher had accidently allowed the class to see test questions ahead of time; allowing her and her classmates to research the answers and bring them back to school the next day to complete the test.
“I can read the headlines, now” I said, “Test Security Executive’s Daughter Caught Cheating!” My daughter of course, thought this was hilarious. Having grown up in the world of test security, she knows all too well how to cheat and how cheaters get caught. She’s seen examples of test cheater strategies and the media frenzies from assessment cheating scandals. On the flip side, she also knows how cheaters get caught and how statistical analysis (aka Data Forensics) can detect testing irregularities.
Did this teacher see the unintended consequences of his actions by giving these kids pre-knowledge of the test questions?
This got me thinking about the Common Core testing implementation for the 2014-15 school year, the first operational year for the PARCC* and SBAC** Consortium tests. What will be the unintended consequences for students and teachers at schools who have not carefully prepared for delivering statewide Common Core assessments via computer? Specifically, how often will we see inappropriate test taking strategies such as:
- students trying to help their neighbors on test items because there aren’t any partitions between each testing station?
- teachers helping their students through difficult test items because they are proctoring their own students?
- students being prompted by materials on computer room walls and white boards?
- photos of screen captures flicker across someone’s phone through Snapchat?
- wholesale common core tests found on Internet braindump sites?
- untrained staff missing clues and actions when a test security incident does occur?
These scenarios are not unimaginable. In fact, inadequate planning and lack of training on the part of schools and districts could make these events very real possibilities. Yet, how confident can we be that schools are ready for these newer assessments being delivered in newer modalities? I spoke with my local superintendent. He used this year’s pilot testing of the SBAC as an opportunity to put the district’s schools through their paces; making sure the infrastructure could handle the flow of data, that staff were trained on test administration procedures and policies, and that kids were comfortable with the new testing medium. In short, he limited the unintended consequences by being prepared. We can only hope other districts are using similar approaches in preparing their staff to get the most accurate and realistic test results from their students. Otherwise, we lose the real value of why these kids are being tested in the first place; to see how much they have learned.
Oh, and the results of the Social Studies test? As it turns out, the teacher had played his students; seeing which ones would figure out they could take the test questions home to do research for their final exam. Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one. Repeat after me: “I love having a teenage daughter, I love having a teenage daughter…”
**SBAC – Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium