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Cheating Investigations Underway in N.J., Conn.

As a part of my recent article on the response to the cheating scandal in Atlanta, I tried to include a mention of the latest cheating investigations going on around the country.

But the news moves faster than newspaper deadlines, and now there are two additional investigations underway that I did not mention, in New Jersey and in a school in Waterbury, Conn.

In Waterbury, 17 teachers and administrators at Hopeville Elementary School were placed on leave while the state looks into cheating on the Connecticut Mastery Test administered last spring.

In an article that ran in the Connecticut Post, the state commissioner of education said that school employees who alter tests should not only lose their jobs, they should face having to pay for the cheating investigation:

Faced with having to shell out $20,000 or more to pay for an investigation into allegations of cheating at an elementary school in Waterbury, [Commissioner George] Coleman told the state Board of Education state statutes need to be stronger to level penalties to recoup the costs incurred as a result of testing improprieties.


Costs involve not only an investigation, but retesting students and hiring substitutes.

"There are many levels of costs ... as a token of how incensed I am, I am hoping that the board can adopt or support the department to develop legislation that enhances the liability of professionals who engage in this kind of work," Coleman said.

In New Jersey, the state is reviewing test scores in 34 schools that had a high rate of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets. The Press of Atlantic City's article noted that no one is saying cheating occurred. But the situation in Atlanta has made the state more cautious:

"Erasures alone are fine," DOE spokesman Justin Barra said. "We want students to take time to review their answers. But we are collecting more information."


Barra said the DOE also investigates tips, and in 2010-11 received 40 complaints alleging improper testing procedures. In 2010, eight teachers were found to have improperly helped students on state tests.

And, for a look into the mind of a teacher who admitted helping her students change answers on state standardized tests, be sure to check out a recent post in The Notebook, a website devoted to covering Philadelphia schools news.

The anonymous teacher says that the intense pressure to raise scores contributed to her cheating. But she also says that she was motivated by loyalty to her students: "I wanted them to succeed, because I believe their continued failure on these terrible tests crushes their spirit," she told The Notebook.

District Dossier will be taking a short break. I'll be back with new posts Aug. 17.

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