Alleged cheating doesn’t fit ‘typical definitions’

By By Walt Wegener August 16, 2011 10:38 pm

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. § 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.