It’s another form of brotherly love!


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.”

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.
Those damn erasure patterns again! Our thoughts went drifting way back.

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.


  1. Ah, but could those erasures have been part of a well-intentioned study to see the effect on student self-esteem from raised test scores? A study that simply went wrong, despite the good intentions of all invovled?

    We don't know. It hasn't been disproven yet.

    1. We don't need you to do that.

    2. But because you did not explicitly tell me not to do it, that means I can do it.

    3. You could do it even if he did tell you not to do it, and without violating any law or principle.

  2. Teaching at a junior and senior high school in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, there was significant cheating on standardized tests in each of the schools. The cheating in those instances was at the level of department heads.

    1. By the way, I transferred districts to get away from the situation which I found scary.

    2. Did you teach how to avoid dangling participles and punctuate nonrestrictive relative clauses?

    3. deadrat:


    4. You often say even Somerby wouldn't read stupid comments on his own blog. Why do you think someone saying something positive to reinforce Somerby would come back in the middle of the night the night or even the next day looking for a response?

    5. Dead, Dead,

      A Stanford doctorate suffice, fool? Me, I do not know what that grammar stuff means and I do not care a fig.

    6. Anonymous @5:08,

      Suffice for what?

      And we're not on a first syllable basis.

  3. What was the last thing the expert said? Did I miss it?

  4. Cheating has been going on big-time for quite a while. The experts know because they offer detection services, but haven't said anything.

  5. Who the Sam Hill is Motoko Rich? Rich had no background in education. But she did have passion! And no poor fool can outwit Rich. Unless that poor fool is Michelle Rhee....For reasons which are blindingly obvious, we would say that this is the work of functional illiterates....But along with their fake presentations, consider the hapless work of Motoko Rich in this news report from yesterday's New York Times.

  6. mass changing of students answers on tests reminds me that its potentially more important who counts election votes than who casts them. which reminds me that there is more than one kind of test manipulation.

    in high school freshman year, we had to take a test to determine which of three levels we would be in: remedial, intermediate or advanced. each level would be completely segregated from the others. i happened to sit next to a kid who finished the test in about 1% the time it took me. tdh comment readers might ask whats so odd about that based on what i say here, but ill tell you why it was noteworthy. he just drew a line straight line down the test sheets, hitting all the a's. obviously thats one way to get a lousy score. he apparently wanted to be in the least difficult of the three sections.

    ive read on this blog, i believe, that sats and acts are not very predictive of collegiate academic success as compared to grade point averages. ill bet that wasnt true of my school. i wonder how many other high schools similarly segregate students.

  7. off topic,

    i want to update a previous off topic comment in which i recalled inferring, from his subordinates interviews, that nbc universal head, steve burke, was particularly upset at msnbc head, phil griffin, for saying saying something to the effect that we dont do breaking news:

    "Bieber Coverage Proves That MSNBC Is Back In The Breaking News Business"
    "The cable network’s overlords at NBC News seem to be winning the war over programming."

    "As recently as June 2013, MSNBC President Phil Griffin famously said that his network was “not the place” for breaking news. The pushback from NBCUniversal News Group Chair Patricia Fili-Krushel seems to have worked.
    A perfect example of MSNBC’s dedication to the Bieber story happened when NBC News veteran Andrea Mitchell, who also anchors the 1 p.m. hour at the network, was forced to interrupt a conversation with former Congresswoman Jane Harmon about National Security Agency spying to inform her viewers that Justin Bieber was about to go before a judge."

    >>> i wonder if burke intended for the breaking news to be so indiscriminate as to highlight the goings-on of a teen-idol who i believe would not be of interest to the msnbc demographics.