RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- How well do your students know the material they are tested on? One group says a passing score may not carry the assumed implications.
Fairtest.org, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, has been tracking cheating stories around the nation. In the last four academic school years, Public Education Director of Fairtest.org, Bob Schaeffer, has seen confirmed cases of cheating in 36 states, including Nevada.
"The State of Nevada has done a report... showing that there are over 100 incidents a year of breaches of test security, maybe four or five dozen of which look like cheating," explains Schaeffer.
Nationally, the most prevalent cheating scenarios have not been ones involving students, but in fact in cases where educators have manipulated scores, either by providing students with advanced copies of the test, or where educators have changed answers after students have completed the exam.
"Politicians have created a situation in which standardized tests are the only thing that matters in many of our schools, and as a result, educators are under tremendous pressure to boost scores by hook or by crook. They believe that their jobs depend on getting test scores up, and that student's educational careers depend on getting passing scores," says Schaeffer.
Paul Richter, Director of Assessment for the Washoe County School District, says in his 11 years on the job, he's seen a handful situations where a teacher has been caught violating proficiency exam rules and regulations.
"There have been two or three incidents of teachers looking into the materials themselves. In all of those cases with teachers involved, it's been because they want their students to do well, not because they are trying to make themselves or the school look any different," says Richter.
Richter explains, school principals are required to go through a training session before administering tests in their schools and then pass that knowledge onto their teachers. The Department of Education was in Reno last week, explaining the rules and guidelines of the standardized tests.
"In extreme cases, where it's clear that a teacher was purposefully trying to cheat on the test, a loss of license and loss of position in the school district could result. That's only happened once in the past 11 years," says Richter.
But cheating incidents don't stop at teachers.
Richter says in the 2011-2012 school year, 30 incidents of student test violations were found in Washoe County. Of those 30 incidents, only two of which were confirmed cases of cheating; the other 28 were cases where a student brought an electronic device to an exam, which per assessment rules, is prohibited.
If a student is caught cheating, his or her test will be invalidated, and the student could be penalized by the school, resulting in suspension.
Shaeffer argues, teacher tenure, student progression and academic progress should not be calculated by a proficiency exam.
"It's not learning. It narrows the curriculum, and it hurts students, teachers and schools... The entire country and the state of Nevada need to understand enough is enough in terms of standardized testing… Move to better forms of assessment, and look at the real work that students do over time, evaluate it by competent educators, checked by an outside expert and not make everything depend on how well you fill in bubbles on test day."