50 Ways for Adults to Cheat … on Students’ Testing

This is not from Paul Simon or any Shades of Grey.

These are ways that ‘Fair Test‘ has compiled as ways for adults at schools to cheat, subtly or not, on students’ standardized tests. Unfortunately for the rest of us, FairTest did not cite where and when these methods of cheating have been documented, so this report is not all that useful.

But there are some things to notice.

Most of the activities listed are ones that there is no question, that’s out and out cheating and fraud. Particularly 6-14 in the PreTesting category; numbers 1, 2, 4, 7, 9-12 during Testing; and 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, and 12-18 in the post-testing section.

On the other hand, there are a few things that in different circumstances would be good teaching, not dishonesty at all.

By that I mean, if we’ve been teaching a unit on the causes of the American Civil War or on congruent triangles or whatever, and we look at the test ourselves, or decide what information to leave available to students on the board or in their notes, that might be just fine. What college student has never had an open-book exam? (Often they are even harder than the ones where you just had to memorize everything!)

In the Pre- category, #2, teachers normally either make up, or select and print, any test that they give; and they should ideally be teaching what they later test, to see if kids really did learn it and decide what to do if they didn’t learn it. Of course, with these idiotic commercialized norm- or criterion-referenced multiple-choice tests, no teacher ever gets any useful, actionable information about their own student’s progress. (As opposed to unreliable ‘data’ to be fed into a VAM algorithm; the only impact is on adults. In many school systems, not just DCPS where Michelle Rhee started several of the current flavors of educational insanity, if you are an unlucky teacher after a few unfortunate rolls of the VAM random-number generator, you might get a notice in late summer saying you are fired.

These stupid tests have a mentality of punish-the-teacher-and the school-who-try-to-work-with-poor-kids, and waste another year of the students’ lives with useless bullfaddle.

On these stupid tests, if a teacher even looks at a test before the kids see it, it would be considered illegal. Obviously, if you are teaching the course and you wrote the test, then you saw it. I understand how it can be fraudulent in these NCLB circumstances.

I am guilty, big-time, of #4, in Post Testing, ON MY OWN TESTS that I wrote myself or with colleagues. And I would do it again. I don’t consider it cheating at all in those circumstances. Quite the opposite.

If someone was close to the cusp between a B or an A or between an F and a D, I often would go over a person’s test or quiz or whatever to see if I could be a little bit more merciful and give someone a little more fraction of a point of partial credit or so on some question(s). [I almost never gave multiple-choice tests, based on many poor experiences with them…I really wanted kids to pass, and I suspected I graded too severely and gave tests that were too hard anyway…] However, there are cases where this does cross the line in to cheating — and I’ve felt the pressure, hard, to pass everybody regardless. Some of my experiences could have been copied nearly word for word and fit precisely into some of Mr. Teachbad’s hilarious videos of the insanity of public education today.

Anyway, I never had any opportunity to grade/correct high-stakes, corporate-controlled multiple-choice or ‘brief constructed answer’ exams. So there.

On the other hand, if you were to discover on the first day of testing, by looking at the test belonging to a student that happened to be absent,  that several items on a test you are supposed to administer later on that week aren’t on your syllabus in the first place, and are all testing  the exact same erroneous topic, what do you do?

That is, if nearly 10% of the questions in a test are testing a single topic that is significantly beyond what you understood the curriculum to be, and you had, in fact, not taught that one skill, but had taught all the rest?

What would you do? Do you think they’ll not count those questions just because you speak up?

You’re much more likely to get into trouble if you complain about unfairness, don’t you think?


But back to my main point: do any of the current round of NCLB- and RTTT- mandated tests actually help kids?

Heck, no.

If they really were helpful to kids, don’t you you think the children of the wealthy such as Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family, the Koch brothers, or any of the ‘one percent’ would also spend all year, year after year, allegedly cramming for a stupid test written by temps that tests nothing of any use or validity and which are never used to help the students themselves?

Again, heck, no.

The tests that the kids at the well-known magnet schools, the expensive private schools and the public schools in the wealthy suburbs — those kids get all the good tests, just as they get plenty of other good stuff in THEIR schools: real chemistry and bio and physics labs, and art and drama and music and band and orchestra and team sports and individual sports and drama and debate and school nurses and libraries and foreign languages and therapists if needed and on and on; and teachers who are professionals, not just doing it for two years to pad their resume.

I went to some schools like that. I know, I’ve seen it. And I’ve taught in all kinds of DC public schools and visited and student taught in wealthy and poor suburban schools.

Yes, those wealthy kids do take some nationally standardized tests: the AP tests, the SATs or ACTs, all of which are written by true professionals who know their subjects well. The questions are good ones, well-crafted; the subject matter in the AP tests is amazing.

Aside: I defy ANYONE reading this to take and pass ANY Advanced Placement test in the time allotted. (Obviously the handful of teachers who currently teach any AP course would have to take this AP exam in some different subject altogether for this to be fair.) Almost none of you will pass.

Yeah, some of our public schools really do some good stuff.

But it’s not getting to the kids who need it most. In fact, what little ‘good stuff’ once got to the kids of the poor, the blacks, and the browns (except those few with high family incomes), is now being increasingly taken away, a la Matthew effect.

So here’s what Fair Test wrote as a list of ways that adults cheat:


  1. Fail to store test materials securely
  2. Encourage teachers to view upcoming test forms before they are administered
  3. Teach to the test by ignoring subjects not on exam
  4. Drill students on actual test items
  5. Share test items on internet before administration
  6. Practice on copies of previously administered “secure” tests
  7. Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school
  8. Hold-back low scorers from tested grade 
  9. “Leap-frog” promote some students over tested grade
  10. Transfer likely low-scoring students to charter schools with no required tests
  11. Push likely low scorers out of school or enroll them in GED programs
  12. Falsify student identification numbers so low scorers are not assigned to correct demographic group
  13. Urge low-scoring students to be absent on test day
  14. Leave test materials out so students can see them before exam

During Testing

  1. Let high-scorers take tests for others
  2. Overlook “cheat sheets” students bring into classroom
  3. Post hints (e.g. formulas, lists, etc) on walls or whiteboard
  4. Write answers on black/white board, then erase before supervisor arrives
  5. Allow students to look up information on web with electronic devices
  6. Allow calculator use where prohibited
  7. Ignore test-takers copying or sharing answers with each other
  8. Permit students to go to rest room in groups
  9. Shout-out correct answers
  10. Use thumbs-up/thumbs down signals to indicate right and wrong responses
  11. Tell students to “double check” erroneous responses
  12. Give students notes with correct answers
  13. Read “silent reading” passages out loud
  14. Encourage students who have completed sections to work on others
  15. Allow extra time to complete test
  16. Leave classroom unattended during test
  17. Warn staff if test security monitors are in school 
  18. Refuse to allow test security personnel access to testing rooms
  19. Cover doors and windows of testing rooms to prevent monitoring
  20. Give unnecessary accommodations to certain students


  1. Allow students to “make up” portions of the exam they failed to complete
  2. Invite staff to “clean up” answer sheets before transmittal to scoring company
  3. Permit teachers to score own students’ tests
  4. Fill in answers on items left blank 
  5. Rescore borderline exams to “find points” on constructed response items
  6. Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones
  7. Provide false demographic information for test-takers to assign them to wrong categories
  8. Fail to store completed answer sheets securely
  9. Destroy answer sheets from low-scoring students
  10. Report low-scorers as having been absent on testing day
  11. Share content with educators/students who have not yet taken the test via email, text, Facebook or Twitter
  12. Fail to perform data forensics on unusual score gains 
  13. Ignore “flagged” results from erasure analysis 
  14. Refuse to interview personnel with potential knowledge of improper practices
  15. Threaten discipline against testing impropriety whistleblowers
  16. Fire staff who persist in raising questions
  17. Fabricate test security documentation for state education department investigators
  18. Lie to law enforcement personnel


Published in: on March 30, 2013 at 12:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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