When the trainer is the certifier

Federal investigators are investigating falsified weapons certifications from 2001 where security guards who were supposedly trained to protect federal buildings have been failing weapons tests. Evidently, the contractor who provided the training was also responsible for certifying that the guards could use the weapons. The contractor knowingly did not train, did not test, but did falsify documents attesting to both.

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19011441&BRD=1641&PAG=461&dept_id=594835&rfi=6

The accused has pled guilty to mail fraud in order to avoid more serious criminal charges. However, the breach was the result of a built-in security flaw. It’s easy when the trainer is also the certifier to falsify data. The lie may not be detected for a long time (in this case we are talking about 6 years). The story illustrates that checks and balances are needed in all security settings. Independent reviews and evaluations are good and should be required.

Another huge cheating incident illustrating the same security weakness was broken by KCNC’s Brian Maass. Servisair has the contract for training workers to de-ice airplanes at Denver and eleven other airports. After receiving a tip, a producer at KCNC went undercover and gathered video evidence of a trainer feeding answers of test questions to trainees.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2007/nov/24/de-icing-meltdown-needs-fast-resolution/

http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=133478

I have knowledge of other situations similar to these, where trainers have given answers to examinees and teachers have tampered with answer sheets. The question becomes, “Who will guard the guardians?” When the stakes are high for both the test taker and the program administrator, test security may be easily breached by program personnel unless opportunities to gain an unfair advantage are minimized and even eliminated.

It is well known that individuals in positions of trust may easily abuse that trust and do a lot more damage to a testing program than a single test taker who cheats. For some reason, these stories keep showing up. We don’t like to believe that people we trust may actually be engaged in test fraud or covering up a few peccadillos (from Spanish meaning ‘little sins’).

Dennis Maynes

Chief Scientist, Caveon Test Security

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