Indiana

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Could Making Standardized Tests Less Secure Stop Teacher Cheating?

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A student taking a test at a California high school.

Here’s a thought:  If teacher cheating scandals in Atlanta and elsewhere are the result of keeping standardized tests top secret, why not put test items “out in the sun instead of trying to lock them up in more and more secure rooms”?

That’s the proposal Stanford economist and education expert Eric Hanushek offered on the EducationNext blog.

His idea:  Create a massive bank of thousands of possible test items, make those questions public, let teachers offer feedback, and then pick a few at random for the actual test.

Hanushek leans into the criticism that this would encourage teaching to a standardized test. ‘Let em!’ he implies, since an extensive question bank would cover the full range of the curriculum, and picking them at random for computerized testing would eliminate risks for testing security breaches.

What are the potential benefits? Hanushek writes:

This testing permits accurate assessments at varying levels while lessening test burden from excessive questions that provide little information on individual student performance.

Such assessments would not be limited to minimally proficient levels that are the focus of today’s tests, and thus they could provide useful information to districts that find current testing too easy.

Students would be given a random selection of questions, and the answers would go directly into the computer – bypassing the erasure checks, the comparison of responses with other students, and the like.

The potential drawbacks? Hanushek notes testing companies wouldn’t like it, since they’ve grown comfortable making differing versions of the same test every year for different states.

This doesn’t look like a direction where Indiana’s testing gurus are headed. If anything, they’re looking for ways to tighten testing security, requiring all teachers to sign ethics pledges before testing.

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