Alleged cheating doesn’t fit ‘typical definitions’

By Chris Collins / The Baker City Herald

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

it negatively.

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.

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