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State BoE quashes tests at suspected cheating school
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ATLANTA — The state Board of Education has approved unanimously a plan to toss out scores for standardized tests at four elementary schools where cheating was discovered.
The voided scores mean the schools will no longer meet federal No Child Left Behind standards and could lose some federal funding. One school, Burroughs-Molette in Glynn County, may have to offer tutoring and allow students to transfer to higher-performing schools.
An audit released by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement in June shows that someone changed answers on fifth-grade math portion of the fifth-grade Criterion-Referenced Competency Test last summer in four districts after the students’ had turned the exams in to teachers. Two educators in DeKalb County have admitted to altering the tests and have been charged with tampering with state documents.
The audit is the latest sign that pressure is mounting on teachers and principals to raise test scores and pass muster on federal benchmarks, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. States like Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia and California have all had problems with cheating on high-stakes exams and have done everything from tossing out test results to firing teachers and principals, Schaeffer said.
“The pressure on teachers and administrators to boost scores is so heavy that some people crack,” he said. “When the pressure grows strong enough, people cross the ethical line. There’s more pressure to use the eraser or to fill in the empty bubble.”
In Georgia, state data released Wednesday indicates the students whose tests are in question were not prepared for sixth-grade math though the questionable tests showed them performing well on the fifth-grade test.
For example, at Burroughs-Molette Elementary in Glynn County, 85 percent of students passed the fifth-grade test last year, compared to 33 percent who passed the sixth-grade exam this year.
“Of course we would expect if they did very well in fifth-grade, they would be able to stay in that same level of achievement,” said Kathleen Mathers, head of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, which released an audit last month revealing the cheating.
The data was presented during a Georgia Board of Education meeting Wednesday where Mathers recommended that the tests be voided.
Schools that consistently fall short of those benchmarks face sanctions, ranging from offering tutoring to a state takeover.
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