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Bruno: What Cheating Scandals "Prove"

4121281930_a05b6226c3Reflecting on recent standardized test cheating scandals, Matt Yglesias wonders "what anti-reform people think these cheating scandals prove."

"Prove" is a strong word, but there are at least two legitimate reasons for reform critics to highlight the scandals:

First, education reformers often rest their argument on test score gains in places that implement their preferred policies. If it turns out that their celebrated test score gains were - or may have been - significantly inflated by cheating, that could very well undermine their case for implementing those policies more widely.

Second, as Yglesias seems briefly to acknowledge, if an accountability system is "vulnerable" to cheating, that might make it less "workable" in practice. Cheating scandals "prove" that an accountability system based on high-stakes standardized tests is, in fact, vulnerable to cheating.

Now, such scandals definitely don't prove that cheating can't be adequately mitigated. They should, however, give us reason for concern.

In fairness, the waters around these issues are muddied somewhat by the fact that some "anti-reform people" overstate the significance of the problem or seem to be as interested in sullying the reputations of their least favorite "reform people" as they are in the policy implications of cheating.

The actual policy relevance isn't actually all that mysterious or complicated, though. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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This whole cheating scandal thing is surprisingly taking place all over the United States....I wonder why?? I think that officials are to blame just as much as teachers and school leaders. Why wait so long to do something that you already knew was happening? Look at all the students effected by this whole issue. What about the students not mentioned, who surprisingly passed classed that they knew they should have failed. Those same students are already out here in the workforce performing jobs that just might require them to know the very thing that they don't. So....what does the cheating scandal prove? It proves that we have people sitting back allowing you to make a mistake when they could have prevented a fall from happening. Sounds like a scandal to me.

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