ATLANTA, Sept. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --On Sunday Sept. 23, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) begins its next installment in "Cheating Our Children," the newspaper's landmark investigation into the integrity of high-stakes testing in our nation's schools.
Sunday's story shows that school districts and states across the country often do an inadequate job of investigating allegations of cheating. A second article, on Sunday, Sept. 30, reveals one of the primary reasons that states fall short: The federal government, which requires achievement tests for nearly every American schoolchild, leaves test security up to the states.
The continuing investigation suggests a broad betrayal of schoolchildren across the nation. As Atlanta learned after cheating was uncovered in half its elementary and middle schools last year, falsified test results deny struggling students access to extra help to which they are entitled and erode confidence in a vital public institution.
In March, the AJC revealed suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts nationwide, with patterns that resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history. In many districts, the newspaper found such high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion.
"As the cheating scandal came to light in Atlanta, we recognized that there could be a bigger story across the country," AJC Editor Kevin Riley said. "Now, our reporters examine what happens when test cheating is reported or suspected. An analysis of 130 cases finds that investigations of cheating are often half-hearted."
"It's a troubling account of how school officials sometimes look the other way when presented with the possibility of cheating," added Riley."This is about preparing our country's future generations, and officials have a responsibility to look into this national issue with the utmost urgency."
The newspaper also finds that the U.S. Department of Education has done little to establish standards or even recommendations for states to follow on test security. The emphasis is all on the test, and not on whether the tests results are legitimate.
The AJC also reveals the findings of a 50-state survey of test security measures, examining a scattered patchwork of practices that does not protect our nation's schoolchildren from educators and administrators who cheat and lie.
Highlights of the exclusive AJC investigation:
- In most cases, officials focused narrowly on a single classroom or a single school - the approach the Atlanta Public Schools used for years before a scandal over systemic, widespread cheating was ultimately proven by a state investigation.
- In one city, the cheating scheme was so elaborate that administrators devised a code to warn staff members when outsiders showed up during testing. They used an alert on the public address system: "Will Abraham Lincoln please come to the office?"
- In another example, where student test scores soared, a teacher alleged that the school's principal "directs the staff to have students write the answers on a piece of paper instead of their answer documents. Then central office collects all the answer documents and pieces of paper and goes to the office and change the answers."
- Just 10 states set aside money for investigations - none of those more than $250,000, a small fraction of the $2 million that Georgia has spent on the Atlanta cheating case.
The integrity of standardized testing is central to American education policy. At a cost of as much as $760 million each year, the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to test all students in grades 3 through 8 to measure performance in reading and math.
Success in America's schools is now defined by showing improvement in test scores. This investigation uncovers the result of pressure on schools to succeed and troubling questions of why it is in no one's interest to look for or prevent cheating.
To read the AJC's previous reports go to http://www.ajc.com/go/cheatingourchildren
About The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the leading source - both in print and online - of news, information and advertising for metropolitan Atlanta, reaching a total print and online audience of nearly 2 million people each week. Every month, nearly 3.8 million unique visitors access the newspaper's websites, including ajc.com and accessAtlanta.com. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is part of Cox Media Group, a publishing, digital media and broadcasting subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises.
About Cox Media Group
Cox Media Group is an integrated broadcasting, publishing, direct marketing and digital media company that includes the national advertising rep firms of Cox Reps. Additionally, CMG owns and operates Valpak, one of North America's leading direct marketing companies. With $1.7 billion in revenue, the company operations include 15 broadcast television stations and one local cable channel, 86 radio stations, eight daily newspapers and more than a dozen non-daily publications, and more than 100 digital services. CMG operates in more than 30 media markets and reaches approximately 52 million Americans weekly, including 30 million TV viewers, more than 4 million print and online newspaper readers, and 18 million radio listeners. For more information about Cox Media Group, please check us out online at www.coxmediagroup.com.
SOURCE The Atlanta Journal-Constitution