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USA Today: Some Test Gains May Be Hard to Believe

By Erik W. Robelen — March 09, 2011 1 min read

Ever wonder if the test-score gains produced by some schools seem a little miraculous? Well, a story published this week in USA Today suggests there may be a lot of cases in which the jumps are no educational miracle after all, but have a deeply troubling explanation: Cheating.

The newspaper investigated the standardized tests of millions of students in six states and the District of Columbia, and identified “1,610 examples of anomalies in which public school classes—a school’s entire fifth grade, for example—boasted what analysts regard as statistically rare, perhaps suspect, gains on state tests.”

The “anomalies” surfaced in all of those states (including D.C.). In addition, there were 317 more examples of equally large, year-to-year declines in an entire grade’s scores.

To be sure, a big jump is possible without cheating, as the story is quick to note. But it says large year-to-year jumps in test scores by an entire grade should raise red flags, especially if the scores tumble in later grades.

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