Assessment

The Temptation to Cheat

August 01, 2007 2 min read

It is the season for school report cards, and I’ve seen a number of news clips about student progress and overall school performance on state tests reported under the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But alongside the coverage of test results, a parallel story line is playing out in many places. Cheating seems to be on the rise, or at least reports and allegations of it. Some observers have noted that with higher stakes comes a greater propensity to cheat on tests. And with the threat of school reconstitution, staff firings, and student retention linked to test scores, the stakes are pretty high.

Last month, the Dallas Morning News, which has conducted an extensive investigation of state test scores over the past year, found new evidence of cheating in some schools. In this news story, reporter Joshua Benton describes the case of Forest Brook High School. The newspaper uncovered suspicious patterns in the school’s test scores over the past two years in an analysis that led to a state investigation. The Texas Education Agency concluded that there was not enough evidence that cheating was involved in the school’s impressive test results.
As Benton reports, however, “the school’s scores collapsed” this year when state monitors “watched over every stage of the testing process in an attempt to prevent any potential misdeeds.”

Similar reports have surfaced in California and other states.

Across the pond, officials in the United Kingdom are dealing with similar issues, as reported today by the BBC, which has been conducting its own investigation.

“Cheating by teachers is so extensive that Chris Woodhead, the former head of the education standards watchdog OFSTED, says the league tables used by parents to differentiate between schools have become unreliable,” this BBC story reports.

The adults aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure. Students, too, are turning to cheating to ensure good grades.

The Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, a middle- class district outside of Detroit, decided this month to ban cell phones in classrooms to help head off cheating. Other districts across the United States have already taken that step. Many also require students to have their school assignments screened by software programs that are designed to identify plagiarized materials.

Is cheating an unintended but inevitable consequence of a high-stakes testing environment?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.

Events

School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
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.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools

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 Opinion AP Exams Can't Be Business as Usual This Year
The College Board seems unconcerned with the collateral damage of its pandemic approach, writes an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Pete Bavis
5 min read
Illustration of large boat in turbulent waters with other smaller boats falling into the abyss.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Assessment Federal Lawmakers Urge Miguel Cardona to Let States Cancel Tests, Highlighting Discord
A letter from Democratic members to the new education secretary calls for an end to the "flawed" system of annual standardized exams.
3 min read
Jamaal Bowman speaks to reporters after voting at a polling station inside Yonkers Middle/High School in Yonkers, N.Y. on June 23, 2020.
Jamaal Bowman speaks to reporters after voting at a polling station inside Yonkers Middle/High School in Yonkers, N.Y. on June 23, 2020.
John Minchillo/AP
Assessment How Two Years of Pandemic Disruption Could Shake Up the Debate Over Standardized Testing
Moves to opt out of state tests and change how they're given threaten to reignite fights over high-stakes assessments.
9 min read
Image of a student at a desk.
patat/iStock/Getty
Assessment A Plan for Standardized Test Scores During the Pandemic Has Gotten States' Attention
A testing expert says his idea would provide helpful data with key context, but said other measures about student well-being are crucial.
7 min read
HS class 1257213326
Getty