Nevada Report Reveals Spike in Test Irregularities

October 08, 2004 3 min read

Testing irregularities in Nevada’s public schools, including incidents involving student cheating and teacher misconduct, increased by more than 50 percent in 2003-04 from the previous school year, according to an annual report.

The report, which was mandated by the legislature in 2001, found 24 incidents of student cheating and 10 incidents that involved the improper disclosure of testing materials to students by teachers in the past school year.

“When you look at overall testing, it’s a minute number,” said Keith Rheault, the state superintendent of schools.


He also pointed out that of the 121 testing irregularities cited by the report, half were the result of improper test administration.

In the report, submitted to the Assembly’s committee on education last month, officials with the state department of education contend that the increase in test irregularities is due in large part to the testing demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The increased amount of testing and the demand for schools to meet targets for adequate yearly progress have put more pressure on teachers and students to get better scores, Mr. Rheault said.

A majority of cheating by Nevada students and teachers occurs in grades 8-12, where more students have access to electronic gadgets that they use to give them an edge. For example, they can use cell phones that take pictures, store text notes, and transmit messages in ways that can help them cheat on tests.

Other students may use wristwatches with built-in calculators that can be difficult for teachers to spot. Calculators are barred from some of Nevada’s standardized tests.

Teachers who improperly disclose testing materials or help students on tests can have their licenses suspended or revoked. In July, the state revoked one teacher’s license and suspended three others for test-related infractions. Six other cases are pending review.

Remedies Not Easy

While some observers are skeptical that pressure from the federal No Child Left Behind law has contributed to student cheating, they say that cheating and other testing misconduct by teachers is an understudied area.

Monty Neill, the executive director of the National Association for Fair & Open Testing, a Cambridge, Mass.-based watchdog group, said that incidents of cheating nationwide are relatively few. But the 2½-year-old federal law has greatly raised the stakes for schools, he said.

“The speed of test-score gains required by nclb is so impossible and so irrational it has undoubtedly caused panic in many places, which can lead to cheating,” Mr. Neill said.

The federal law, in his view, has helped foster a kind of testing mania, and cheating obscures what he argues is the real problem: the improper use of tests.

To complicate matters, many solutions to teacher and student cheating—such as better training for teachers who administer tests, use of proctors, and placement of more than one teacher on duty during tests—are not as simple as they may seem, according to Mr. Neill.

Proctors can be expensive, and studies have shown that test administrators who are unfamiliar to students can make some test-takers uncomfortable. As a result, the students may perform poorly on the tests.

More Tests Ahead

Training teachers to administer tests, although a good means of prevention, also involves a trade-off, said Mr. Neill, because it can take time away from more educationally beneficial activities such as professional development.

Nevada education officials are taking some steps to reduce testing irregularities.

The state department of education has refined its annual training sessions on test administration, solicited feedback from districts about unclear instructions and test-administration guidelines, and made testing guidelines available online, by mail, and at training sessions.

The department has also requested a full-time training officer to help oversee the testing- irregularities caseload, which is expected to increase when the state begins administering mathematics and reading tests that will be phased in this year.

Referring to testing irregularities, Mr. Rheault, the schools chief, said: “Overall, we’ve made it a priority to make sure it’s not affecting the results of our tests in Nevada.”

Related Tags:


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.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for 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 Standardized Tests Could Be in Jeopardy in Wake of Biden Decisions, Experts Say
Has the Biden administration shored up statewide tests this year only to risk undermining long-term public backing for them?
6 min read
Illustration of students in virus environment facing wave of test sheets.
Collage by Vanessa Solis/Education Week (Images: iStock/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty)
Assessment How Can Teachers Better Understand Students? A New Breed of Assessment Will Try to Help
Researchers will work to create formative assessments that can give teachers a window into students’ emerging identities and strengths
4 min read
In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, sixth-grade students listen to instruction in class at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in East Harwich, Mass.
Researchers hope to create new assessments to help teachers gain deeper insights into the identities and strengths of their students, like these 6th graders at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in East Harwich, Mass.
Elise Amendola/AP
Assessment Opinion It's Time We Begin Using Assessments to Look Forward, Instead of Back
Schools do not get much value from high-stakes tests. Many are now allowing schools to use better assessments to guide student learning.
Seth Feldman
5 min read
shutterstock 19525837
Assessment Opinion Grading Has Always Been an Imperfect Exercise. COVID-19 Made It Worse
It’s hard reducing the complexity of each student’s social, emotional, and academic learning to a letter grade. Maybe we’re doing it wrong.
Lory Walker Peroff
4 min read
A student's grades are unknown
Robert Neubecker for Education Week