test security

test tampering

New York

New York State's bulked-up test security team opens its inbox

A new form allows people to report suspicions of cheating on state tests online, simplifying a long-complicated process. Starting today, school staffers can report their cheating suspicions online. The state's new test security watchdog has launched its website, allowing people to use an electronic form to file allegations about possible cheating by educators on state tests. It's one of the first concrete moves by the State Education Department's new test security unit, created last year after a self-imposed audit of the department's test security policies found them severely lacking. The audit came after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged states to scrutinize their test integrity practices following a spate of high-profile cheating scandals. The scandals threatened to undermine the real and perceived value of test scores even as New York State was attaching higher stakes to its scores. The audit concluded that the state's paper-based system for receiving allegations of improprieties was disorganized and outdated, creating the potential for "underreporting and underestimation of information." Plus, the Office of State Assessment did not have anyone assigned exclusively to investigate allegations that did come in. Now, four investigators —  all former state and federal law enforcement officers — are ready to look into cheating allegations received online, according to Tina Sciocchetti, who heads SED's Test Security and Educator Integrity office. The investigators are also working on piles of years-old cold cases absorbed from the assessment office.
New York

Some analysis left undone in data-driven education department

P.S. 199 in the South Bronx, one of the city's top-rated elementary schools in recent years. A high rate of its former students' test scores plummeted once they moved onto middle school. The Department of Education crunches state test scores in dozens of ways to measure the performance of schools, principals, teachers, and students. But it does not perform a statistical analysis that can reveal whether an elementary school’s graduates have received test scores that far outstrip their actual skills. Researchers say it would be relatively easy for the department to calculate “swing rates” to find the proportion of students from each school whose scores rise or fall by a statistically unlikely margin when they move to another school. Such an analysis could take some of the burden off of individual educators to report suspicions of cheating. The city used to conduct swing rate analysis prior to the Bloomberg administration, according to a former testing official, and the state is poised to launch the measure as part of an overhaul of its own approach to test security. But department officials say the analysis would be too onerous. They also say that they never launch investigations into cheating based on data anomalies alone. Instead, they say they will dispatch investigators only when they receive formal allegations of test improprieties. The policy means that some top-rated schools whose students’ scores plummet at far higher than the average rate never have their testing practices scrutinized. For all of the criticism of state tests as being arbitrary and imperfect measures of student performance, they are remarkably stable. In 2011, students who saw their scores fall by more than two standard deviations from the previous year made up just 0.6 percent of the sixth grade test-taking population in English, and 0.4 percent in math. That degree of decline is highly improbable under normal circumstances and is more likely to reflect externalities than real changes in academic proficiency.
New York

Walcott: Budget cuts forced city to slash test security monitoring

Dennis Walcott said budget cuts forced the city to reduce its test monitoring program this year. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott blamed budget cuts on the reduction of monitoring visits that the education department made to schools on testing days earlier this year. He added that he hoped to restore the program to full capacity in time for next year's standardized tests, but that he couldn't promise it. "I can't give you a guarantee," Walcott said this morning at a charity event in Brooklyn. "In a number of areas we've had to make some very difficult decisions around how the budget realities have an impact." Department officials weren't immediately able to be more specific than the explanation Walcott offered. They did not know how much the monitoring program cost or how much was cut from it this year. Update: A spokeswoman said that the cuts came from a $5 million reduction in the department's testing budget, which was roughly $20 million last year. The cuts were made "in order to protect school programs from the citywide budget cuts." In April, monitors made 41 unannounced visits to 37 schools over a six-day testing period as part of a program that was devised to both deter schools from violating test security guidelines and check up on schools that were already suspected of misconduct and other improprieties. Many of the schools that received the surprise visits saw their test scores plummet this year. But the total was down sharply from 2011, when the city paid 99 visits to 97 schools. The reduction comes at a time when federal and state officials are pushing districts to ramp up their test monitoring presence as part of a larger goal to ensure that the credibility of standardized tests are not compromised.
New York

Test monitoring offers look into city's efforts to preempt cheating

A test security practice that city officials devised to deter cheating before it happens is also being used to preempt schools already suspected of misconduct. Each spring, as part of its test monitoring program, the Department of Education disperses a small team to schools on testing days to scrutinize and enforce security guidelines. Some schools are picked randomly, but others were flagged by the department because allegations were lodged by school staff and test score data showed "anomalous" results in recent years, officials said. During this year's six-day elementary and middle school testing period in April, education department employees paid 41 visits to 37 schools, according to records obtained by GothamSchools in a Freedom of Information Law request. The city would not specify which schools were the subject of a targeted monitoring visit, as opposed to a random one. But an analysis of test score data for the schools that had monitors visit showed that many had large increases in 2011, a year when the citywide pass rate barely budged. When monitors visited the schools for the 2012 tests, some of them saw sharp drops on its scores — even while the citywide average increased. Not all monitored schools saw declines this year and, in fact, some saw large gains. But of the schools that made significant gains on either English or math in 2011, more than half regressed to some degree in 2012. One school's math proficiency rate dropped by more than 40 percentage points. The previously undisclosed details about the monitoring program comes at a time when state and federal education officials are increasingly focused on devising policies to improve the integrity of tests in the wake of cheating scandals that have erupted in other cities. The number of schools listed in the monitoring program also provides a limited glimpse into the scope of cheating allegations that the city education department receives and is able to deal with.
New York

State hires upstate attorney to head new test security office

New York

Test security measures nixed from 2012-2013 state budget

Funding for statewide erasure analysis and other test security measures was omitted from early drafts of the 2012-2013 budget, meaning a major initiative by the state education department could be shelved indefinitely. Back in October, the Board of Regents signed off on a plan to request $2.1 million in the 2012-2013 budget for erasure analysis as part of changes to address concerns that state tests were not secure. State education officials lobbied the Governor's office for the funding, but when Cuomo released his $132.5 billion preliminary budget in January, the line item was not included. Funding for the initiatives was also left out of budget proposals submitted this week by the Assembly and Senate. "The legislature said it's obviously not a priority for them," SED spokesman Dennis Tompkins said of the test security proposals. Every spring, state agencies lobby Cuomo's budget office for their legislative priorities. In addition to funding for test security, SED officials also wanted a budget amendment to reduce costs and shorten the length of time it takes to complete disciplinary hearings for tenured teachers, a wish that Cuomo granted. The omission of test security proposals came at the same time as Cuomo used the budget process to push districts and teachers unions to accept an evaluation system that makes test scores a part of teacher ratings. Some legislators said test security got short shrift during the budgetary process. "As more and more importance is placed on state tests, there needs to be real reform: higher quality tests, better formats, and improved test integrity," said Senator Daniel Squadron. "The only way to improve the quality of the tests and the integrity of the scoring is to invest more dollars to move beyond oversimplified multiple choice, and to professionalize assessment."
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