Please Put Down Your Pencils. I'll Take It From Here.

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Does high stakes testing make teachers more likely to cheat? A new study by Brian A. Jacob and Steven D. Levitt of Chicago Public Schools indicates it does, particularly in the lowest performing classrooms. However, the study also indicates that cheating is not as widespread as many have feared nor is it inevitable fact of life with high stakes testing. According to Jacob and Levitt, on any given exam, cheating occurs in 3 to 6 percent of classrooms. As the researchers point out, this figure is neither too small to ignore, nor too large to completely discount the feasibility of high-stakes testing. Perhaps most importantly, the researchers illustrated that cheating can be detected relatively painlessly. Jacob and Levitt developed a statistical algorithm that depends on unexpected fluctuations in students' test scores and unusual patterns of answers for students within a classroom to successfully identify instances of cheating. While knowing they can be caught by smart folks armed with some fast math may in itself deter some teachers, the researchers suggest that combining such methods with an implementation of testing safeguards like those practiced by the Educational Testing Service such as prohibiting teachers from testing their own students and providing more independent proctors could dramatically reduce testing malfeasance.