The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that looks at test security in the age of computerized standardized tests. In the wake of a rash of standardized testing cheating scandals—think of D.C.’s “Erasure Gate” courtesy of Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Atlanta’s Superintendent Beverly Hall’s fill-in-the-right-bubble fraud—the Journal looks at the claim by high-tech companies and corporate education reformers that bringing the tests on-line is a solution to test cheating rings.
In the article, one of the quotes that the Journal attributes to me is, “The idea that [computers] would be the solution to cheating doesn’t make sense to me on the face of it.”
I stand by this quote, however, the point I made that they didn’t include in the article is far more important: As long as high-stakes are attached to standardized tests—graduation for students, merit-pay and evaluation for teachers, corporate reformer brownie points and bonuses for superintendents, school closures, and the rest of it—there will always be someone who can’t resist erasing, or hacking into, wrong answers and changing them to right ones.
If we really want to get rid of mass cheating scandals, we should transform our assessment practices from a tool of reward and punishment into evaluations that seek to understand the many different intelligences of our students–beyond just their ability to pick an answer, often out of context, from a list of other choices.