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Media: The New York Times' Made-Up Cheating Story

340x_a_plus_chalkboardAnyone else notice that there are no real numbers in Trip Gabriel's cheating story in the NYT today -- that he can't say whether cheating is up or not, blames the "trend" on NCLB and merit pay without any real evidence of a connection, and that one of his main experts is a notorious anti-testing advocate?  It's a familiar refrain -- accountability causes cheating -- usually used to suggest that accountability is the culprit (not the cheaters).   But it's pretty weak journalism. Under Pressure, Educators Tamper With Test Scores).   Come on, Trip.  We need you to do better than this. 

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What numbers would you suggest he use, Alexander? He listed a half dozen states where investigations are underway and noted no data is collected on cheating. His thesis -- the greater the pressure, the more likely cheating becomes comports with the available evidence.

This is not to say the story is perfect. The story that the general public probably does not appreciate is the big picture on cheating. Lower cut scores, scoring rubrics that award generous and undeserved partial credit, or dumb down tests, that's cheating too. And when we base claims of progress on these debased metrics, we're allowing an illusion of proficiency or progress to be created where none exists. That's downright fraudulent.

So the better story might be not "who's cheating," but rather "who isn't?"


your points about the larger fraud are well taken, robert -- i'd agree that test manipulations of various kinds are as big or a bigger problem than classroom level cheating. but either way the argument needs evidence. gabriel's obligation is to document his claims and single incidents in six states or so doesn't make the case that there's a cheating problem or that it's on the rise, and falls completely on its face on the issue of what its causes might be. it's that last part that's most bothersome to me -- the assumption that testing or accountability cause people to cheat. (nor do i hold that teachers will teach better for money, for example). too simple, too pat.

You're a hard man to please, A-Rus. I cut my teeth in the newsmagazines where the first baby down a well is news, the second, a coincidence. The third baby down a well is a trend. More than three? That's a cover story!

From the look of Caveon's website, it looks like their business is booming.
http://www.caveon.com/

You can even sign up for regular news updates about cheating.
http://www.caveon.com/archive_citn/CNews_7-24-09.htm

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