Cheating Scandal Erupts after Governor Calls for Less School Testing

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State address in January, he took a shot at school testing, and among his complaints was that the results weren’t released until after the school year ended.

Unfortunately, they’re going to be a little bit later this year.

The state Department of Education announced it is delaying the release of standardized test results for two weeks while it investigates the online posting of test booklet photographs. Students at 11 high schools and one middle school posted photos, most likely taken with cellphones, of various pages, including some with test questions.

The problem surfaced in April when 249 students who had just completed the tests posted 442 images on social networking sites. The security breach could affect 147 schools in 94 school districts and goes beyond the photos posted online. Students could have shared other photos not posted with friends who had not yet taken the test.

So, although the governor called for a reduction in the number of tests, and a process that would get the results to teachers, principals and superintendents in weeks, not months, test results this year won’t be known before the end of August.

Critics of the tests have complained for years about security. The California Parents for Education Choice claim that old, relevant copies of the tests are readily available and that the testing process has never been secure.

California used to have an aggressive monitoring system at the state level that hunted down imaginative cheaters and conducted between 150 and 200 audits a year. But its forensic team of investigators had its budget slashed in 2009 and those responsibilities shifted to the school district level. USA Today found that the districts reported 112 investigations of cheating allegations over a two-year period.  

North Hollywood High School Principal Randy Delling said he wasn’t surprised at the mass posting, considering that the perps are “teenagers [who] aren't held accountable in any way, shape or form for the test. Of course they're going to take a picture with a cellphone,” he said. “They also write the names of their boyfriend or girlfriend in the bubbles on the answer sheet.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Students’ Online Photos of California Tests Delay Release of Scores (by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times)

Security Breach Delays California STAR Test Results Two Weeks (by Theresa Harrington, Contra Costa Times)

California Test Cheating: Schools Could Face Penalties after Students Take Photos of Standardized Exams, Post Them Online (by Alex Kuczynski-Brown, Huffington Post)

API Test Scores Tainted by Cheating (by Alan Bonsteel, Los Angeles Daily News op-ed)

Cuts Hamper Efforts to Combat Cheating (by Corey G. Johnson, California Watch)

Text of Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State Address

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