| September 5, 2012

More cheating on Oklahoma tests?

“At least two Hinton high school students will have their end-of-instruction exam scores invalidated after evidence of ‘testing irregularities’ surfaced following last school year,” Andrew Knittle reports in The Oklahoman (“State investigates testing irregularities at Hinton Public Schools”).

The district’s testing coordinator and its former superintendent have both resigned since the end of the last school year, which is when the alleged testing incidents occurred. Tricia Pemberton, a spokesman for the state Education Department, confirmed the department is looking into the matter.

And apparently this is not the only testing-irregularity matter the department is weighing. Nearly six months ago the department said it would be “looking closely” at the findings from a March 25 report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (“Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation”). The newspaper found that “suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history.” The Oklahoma districts on that list are Choctaw/Nicoma Park, Owasso, Stillwater and Tulsa.

In addition, the newspaper found 10 Oklahoma districts that “do not match the Atlanta pattern as closely” but that “certainly deserve further examination.” These are: Bartlesville, Broken Arrow, Edmond, Muskogee, Mustang, Norman, Oklahoma City, Sand Springs, Western Heights and Yukon.

Regrettably, cheating happens. And when asked this year if it is more widespread in Oklahoma than what is reported, an interim assistant state superintendent replied: “Of course.”

As for Hinton, the new superintendent describes his school district as “excellent, academically.” But data from the Global Report Card indicate that Hinton produces students with math performance worse than that of the typical student in the average developed country. According to the Global Report Card, if one were to pick up the Hinton school district and drop it into Canada, the average Hinton student would be at the 30th percentile in math achievement. If the Hinton school district were relocated to Singapore, the average Hinton student would be at the 22nd percentile in math achievement. In Finland, the average Hinton student would be at the 21st percentile in math achievement.

So apart from any possible cheating problems, there’s work to be done. And as I never tire of repeating, parental choice can help.

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