In Short

By Debra Viadero — June 20, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Too many eraser marks on a standardized test could signal that someone is cheating, says a University of Iowa researcher.

As the stakes surrounding achievement tests have risen in recent years, so, too, have reports of cheating. But little is known about detecting whether teachers or principals are erasing and changing students’ answers, said Audrey L. Qualls, an associate professor of educational measurement and statistics at the university’s Iowa City campus.

To find out how many erasures are too many, Ms. Qualls decided to analyze answer sheets from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Her results appeared last month in the journal Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice. She started with test papers from a nationally representative sample of students from 16 districts in Iowa, where pressure for schools to perform well on the tests is minimal.

Getting hold of the tests was easy; Ms. Qualls is a co-author for several parts of the Iowa tests. Counting erasures was harder. Because machine scans undercounted erasures, Ms. Qualls and her assistants resorted to counting them by hand.

The researchers also compared their results with those for districts in a unidentified state that puts slightly more pressure on schools to post high scores.

In both analyses, the researchers found that most students change from zero to six answers on their tests. Not all of those changes are for the better. On a test with one erasure, for example, students made wrong-to-right changes only 50 percent of the time. For multiple erasures, the percentages of wrong-to-right changes were dramatically lower.

Test-behavior patterns outside those norms, Ms. Qualls concluded, might reasonably flag cheating—but only as a “second step’’ in such detection. Unusual score gains, a tip from a parent or an educator, or machine scans showing lots of erasures should still be the first sign of trouble, she said.

“It’s difficult to even want to point a finger that someone is cheating,” she added. “But we have to be able to trust tests.”

Related Tags:

Coverage of research is underwritten in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2001 edition of Education Week as In Short


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment What the Research Says What Teachers Should Know About Integrating Formative Assessment With Instruction
Teachers need to understand how tests fit into their larger instructional practice, experts say.
3 min read
Students with raised hands.
E+ / Getty
Assessment AI May Be Coming for Standardized Testing
An international test may offer clues on how AI can help create better assessments.
4 min read
online test checklist 1610418898 brightspot
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Assessment Whitepaper
Design for Improvement: The Case for a New Accountability System
Assessments in more frequent intervals provide useful feedback on what students actually study. New curriculum-aligned assessments can le...
Content provided by Cognia
Assessment The 5 Burning Questions for Districts on Grading Reforms
As districts rethink grading policies, they consider the purpose of grades and how to make them more reliable measures of learning.
5 min read
Grading reform lead art
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week with E+ and iStock/Getty