Tag Archives: testing issues

Cheating, Cheating, 1, 2, 3

The last couple of months have seen reports of cheating on critical tests from around the world:

• In April, The Vancouver Sun reported on Alberta high school students cheating on their math diploma exam, a test for students in Grade 12 that accounts for 50 percent of their final mark.

• In June, the New York Times reported on teachers tampering with exams, citing investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Texas, and Virginia.

• Also in June, the English version of Xinhuanet.com carried a story on arrests of at least 64 people accused of selling hi-tech gadgets to students about to take the national college entrance exam, called gaokao.

Yesterday’s New York Times had an article about new measures to thwart cheating implemented by the University of Central Florida in their testing center and proactive plagiarism tutorials offered by other schools, such as University of Virginia, Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby. The article also addresses the issue of creating an atmosphere in which cheating is assumed and how that might affect students who do not cheat.

One thing that none of these reports deal with, however, is how the find-cheating-frenzy can overreact, especially a mechanized system like Turnitin. Three important points:

1) When book research was the norm, even the most diligent student could only see so much prose written about his or her topic. Today, the Internet provides myriad opportunities for people around the world to write on a topic, and no student can read exhaustively enough to make sure that his or her words do not match some words someone else wrote at some time. Still, it is possible that some obscure source that the student has never seen shares some words with what a student wrote.

2) Definitions are pretty limited. It is hard—and may be inappropriate—to change the wording of a definition. Because definitions are proposed by so many references, as well as written into articles, it is likely that there may be overlap, even if a student doesn’t reference any source and writes a definition from his or her own knowledge.

3) There can be legitimate confusion about what is in the public domain. Not only are the laws different in different countries, but some are rather arcane, making experts cringe. Moreover, there are works that are assumed to be in the public domain by so many people—for example, the song “Kookaburra”—that it is no wonder if students think they are folk songs without copyright rather than “owned.” CNN reports today that the band Men at Work has had a judgment issued against it for using a bit of the melody of “Kookaburra” in the song “Down Under.”

And if you think that’s complicated, just check out the history of the song known as “The Hokey Pokey“!

For a general overview of teen cheating, check out “What is Cheating?” on our sister site

And if you have any stories you’d like to share about cheating, we’d welcome them.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

If you have a child in a K–12 classroom or are a teacher in a K–12 classroom, it’s testing season. If you have a child in college or teach college, it’s final exam season. It’s actually been testing season for quite awhile. The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exams were given from January 25 through March 12. Since then, schools have been giving state-mandated assessments, such as the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). or the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program. Advanced Placement® exams (AP exams) run May 3–7 and 10–14, with late testing dates being May 19–21.And for some students there are high school exit exams, college entrance exams, physical fitness exams, etc.

Testing can serve a variety of purposes:

Learning—Although testing is usually thought of as a recap of what has been previously learned, it can actually be a learning experience itself. A well-conceived question can lead a student to recast what has been learned in a new light, perhaps by achieving a synthesis that could only come after everything else was done.

• Diagnosis—Reading clinicians and speech language pathologists, among others, use various testing tools to help understand students abilities and disabilities in order to make an appropriate plan

• Demonstrating Competency—When the reading clinician or speech language pathologist or other instructor has been successful in work with a student, a test can demonstrate that the goals have been achieved. In addition, sometimes you have to be proficient in A to go on to B, of necessity or because there’s a rule that says you must or because it’s necessary for your own or others’ safety that you have that skill down pat or for some other reason.

• Feedback and Placement—For the student moving to a new school environment or an adult returning to school, a singer joining an school ensemble and a child joining a sports team, a test can help to make decisions between French I and French 2, Algebra and Geometry, Tenor and Baritone, Pitcher and Outfielder.

• Gateway—There are gates in, like college entrance exams, and gates out, like high school exit exams.

• Assessment—Some tests are a certain percentage of a grade for a class, with weight only in that class.

• Accountability—Tests can be used to judge students’ learning and hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable.

With as many uses and styles as it has, testing is an area of some contention. For a greater understanding of some of the questions that have been raised about testing, read our article “Testing Issues.”