The cheating spreads to Philly: Stop reading if you’ve heard this one before. But today's report in the New York Times took us back quite a few years.
The report by Motoko Rich concerns the latest cheating on standardized tests. This time, it happened in Philly.
Here’s how the report started:
RICH (1/24/14): The first sign that something was wrong appeared more than two years ago when a company grading student tests from Philadelphia noticed that erasures from wrong to right answers showed what investigators delicately called “statistical evidence of improbable results.”Those damn erasure patterns again! Our thoughts went drifting way back.
Pennsylvania began an investigation, eventually instructing the school district to look into improprieties at 19 schools. Over the course of a year, the district found disturbing patterns in parts of the system that resulted in three principals being fired last week for test cheating in one of the largest such scandals in the country.
At some time around 1980, we began a telephone correspondence with the top person at one of the leading standardized test companies of the day. Back then, school systems tended to administer one of the national, “norm-referenced” standardized test batteries—The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, the California Achievement Tests and the like.
We don’t recall the process by which we started having hour-long phone conversations with the top person at one of these entities. Most likely, it was related to this column we wrote in the Baltimore Sun, in which we noted impossible scoring patterns at certain local schools.
Whatever! We don’t know why the person in question spoke to us on the phone so much for the next year or so. But among the things we learned from this person, this was the first time we learned about those doggone erasure patterns.
We also learned this—even then, the big test companies offered a service designed to combat this form of cheating. If a school system paid a fee, they would scan the system’s answer sheets for improbable erasure patterns
We were surprised to hear that cheating of that type occurred at all, let alone that it was so common that the companies offered that service.
That would have been the early 1980s. Here’s our point—it took the press corps and the “educational experts” about thirty years to catch up with this situation. It was only in the last few years that this sort of thing burst out into view.
We are a very low-IQ culture. Our press corps and our expert cadres are like something out of a primitive land.
And now for the rest of the story: Our telephone correspondence ended in a remarkable way. The last thing we were told by our friend was the most striking by far.
We can’t vouch for the accuracy of what we were told. In fact, our correspondent was only reporting a strong suspicion. But based on an observable nationwide trend, it had the ring of truth.
The cheating thing has been big for some time, perhaps in ways you’ve never heard described. The “educational expert” community is always the last to speak.