Independently Audit Test Scores; Incentives for Success Give Educators, Students Reason to Cheat

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Independently Audit Test Scores; Incentives for Success Give Educators, Students Reason to Cheat


Byline: Herbert J. Walberg, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

National surveys show that most students report cheating at some point during their school careers. In addition, test fraud among educators is rising with increasing pay for performance of educators for their students' gains on standardized tests. To improve the test validity and hold educators accountable, independent accounting and auditing systems are required.

Major accounting organizations in the United States help firms and nonprofit organizations conduct formal audits. Not limited in their scope to money, these firms gather and report information analogous to student achievement. They measure the circulation of library books, recovery rates in hospitals and client satisfaction on a variety of efforts. They have the independence, objectivity and specialized skills to gain telling information on a variety of organizations.

The school accountability problem is similar to that described by law professor Adolph Berle and economist Gardiner Means in their 1932 book The Modern Corporation and Private Property. They argued that because the interests of the corporate board and staff are not identical, boards require objective information and independent verification to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders to assess the firm's and the chief executive's progress.

Today, the need for independent audits of schools is even more acute. The poor performance of U.S. schools compared with that of schools in other countries is actually worse than it appears because of fraud. Academic dishonesty proliferates and usually remains undetected. Students cheat to please adults in their lives, keep up with their peers or simply pass to the next grade level. Teachers also have incentives, such as better pay and greater status, when students score well on tests. They may teach the test content before administering a test, deliberately overlook students' cheating or change students' answers on tests.

Principals and superintendents may encourage systematic policies that foster misleadingly inflated test scores. Administrators have been caught encouraging academically weak students to stay home on test days, incorrectly assigning students to special education programs not subject to testing, and ignoring hints of apparent testing malfeasance. …

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