Analysis suggests cheating on TAKS

TEA consultant cites suspicious scores in 1 in 12 Texas schools in ‘05
The Dallas Morning News
By Joshua Benton, The Dallas Morning News

About one in 12 Texas schools had unusual TAKS results that suggest cheating occurred last year, according to a consultant hired by the Texas Education Agency.

The consultant, a Utah test security firm named Caveon, was hired after a Dallas Morning News series found suspicious scores in nearly 400 schools statewide, based on 2003 and 2004 testing results.

The analysis found “statistical inconsistencies” in 609 of the 7,112 Texas public schools where testing was conducted last year. In many of those schools, only one classroom was found to have suspicious activity; in all, 702 classrooms statewide were identified.

Caveon’s report emphasizes that the statistical measures are not, by themselves, proof of cheating. In some cases, there may be another explanation for the unusual data patterns.

But the report says Caveon used “a very conservative statistical approach” that means “reasonable explanations of these inconsistencies by referring to normal circumstances become improbable.”

In one elementary school, 45 of the 262 answer sheets were exact duplicates of one another. An additional 29 students had perfect scores. In all, 141 answer sheets were flagged by the analysis, and Caveon says the chances of such a pattern happening naturally would be less than 1 in 1 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion – a 1 followed by 72 zeros.

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