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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Cheating Scandals Intensify Focus on Test Pressures

By Christina A. Samuels | Ed Week
August 4, 2011

The cheating scandal that has rocked the 48,000-student Atlanta school system was an egregious, but not entirely unexpected, byproduct of testing accountability pressures, many testing experts say.

The reason: As long as test scores are used in any field to make decisions on rewards or punishments, including for schools or educators, a small percentage of people will be willing to bend the rules—or break them.

But the allegations of systematic test alteration by teachers and principals in Atlanta, along with recent accusations of cheating in Baltimore, the District of Columbia, Philadelphia and other districts, have highlighted a split between those arguing for improved test management and security and those who ask if it’s better to scrap high-stakes testing altogether.

Yong Zhao, the associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, used the Atlanta situation as a jumping-off point for a five-part series in his blog Zhao Learning. The United States should “ditch testing,” he believes.

In an interview, he said that the country should move to a portfolio-based assessment system that measures students in several areas.

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