By Walt Wegener
To publicly accuse students of cheating with support from the schools is intolerable. We take this complaint seriously and we are investigating thoroughly.
The report in the Herald is both premature and not aligned with typical definitions of cheating. Atlanta cheated: 44 school staffs actually changed student records and test papers to help the performance reports. We are told the anonymous complaint contends that the Oregon Assessment
of Knowledge and Skills did not predict student performance well enough
to accurately place students in classes so the OAKS results must be
false. The OAKS is not a strong diagnostic tool.
The OAKS is a pass/fail test. Students either meet or do not meet a
level. The questions are randomly generated so predicting them to
"cheat" is improbable.
When a district publicly reports OAKS scores we report a number of
students who succeeded using percentage. All the schools and districts
in the state use the same format. Thus, 73 percent of 140 are 102
students passed, formally "Met Standard." Which also means 38 students
did not pass, or formally "Did Not Meet Standard". These are single
numbers not averages.
Reporting of cheating in the Herald was potentially a violation of
federal law because (FERPA, (20 U.S.C. andsect; 1232g; 34 C.F.R. Part 99),
"easily identifiable" student records) were published. The Baker School
District did not provide the data. The Herald reports the Department of
Education did not release the data. The law makes it clear that
information about groups of less than 42 students is protected if
students would potentially be "easily identifiable."
There is no "lack of transparency" by use of "averages." Each family knows their scores. Who else needs to know?
We are dealing with students. They are bored with testing. They see no
advantage in the testing. Some blow the test off. These required tests
are of limited value.
Our staffs work hard to increase literacy skills in the schools. We are
successful. Our teachers have built relationships with children so that
most of the children will try. When they make the effort our children
do well. The paper reported the evidence that effort matters but spun
Currently there is no evidence of any tampering with questions or
tests. We do think we may have some minor issues to fix and additional
training to tighten up the process.
No cheating in the sense of Atlanta, D.C., Baltimore or Pennsylvania.
Walt Wegener is superintendent Baker School District.