Standardized Exam Cheating Confirmed in 37 States and DC

FairTestFairTest, an organization that “advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools”, has prepared a report on confirmed incidences of schools cheating on standardized tests in recent years. The report includes discussion of multiple means through which schools manipulate results of standardized tests.

As an Atlanta grand jury indicts former top school officials in a test cheating scandal and the annual wave of high-stakes standardized exams begins across the nation, a new survey reports confirmed cases of test score manipulation in at least 37 states and Washington, D.C. in the past four academic years. The analysis by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) documents more than 50 ways schools improperly inflated their scores during that period.

“Across the U.S., strategies that boost scores without improving learning — including outright cheating, narrow teaching to the test and pushing out low-scoring students — are widespread,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “These corrupt practices are inevitable consequences of the politically mandated overuse and misuse of high-stakes exams.”

Among the ways FairTest found test scores have been manipulated in communities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, New York City, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia:

  • Encourage teachers to view upcoming test forms before they are administered.
  • Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school.
  • Drill students on actual upcoming test items.
  • Use thumbs-up/thumbs-down signals to indicate right and wrong responses.
  • Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones.
  • Report low-scorers as having been absent on testing day.

Schaeffer continued, “The solution to the school test cheating problem is not simply stepped up enforcement. Instead, testing misuses must end because they cheat the public out of accurate data about public school quality at the same time they cheat many students out of a high-quality education.”

“The cheating explosion is one of the many reasons resistance to high-stakes testing is sweeping the nation,” Schaeffer concluded.

For more information, including lists of schools involved in cheating scandals and more discussion on ways in which schools cheat, please visit: