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N.Y. Education Department Proposes $2 Million to Curb Cheating

The New York Board of Regents voted to forward to the governor a $2 million pilot proposal designed to curb cheating on state tests.

Most of the money, $1 million, would be spent on scanning 10 percent of the state's Regents exams and the tests given to 3rd-through-8th graders for suspicious erasures, starting in the 2012-13 school year. Another $200,000 would be spent on a computer-based testing pilot. The state also relies on regionally based scanning and scoring of state tests, and an education department working group is recommending a centralized scoring system.

The budget increases must be approved by the governor, but the reocmmendations appear to be headed for adoption, according to a story in the website Gotham Schools.

The number of confirmed cheating cases in New York schools remains quite low, according to an investigation by the Associated Press published this weekend. From the story:

Cheating is often reported by students and parents, officials say, and the number of confirmed cases remains a fraction of the 222,000 teachers in the state's classrooms. Data obtained by The Associated Press shows just 50 cases were confirmed in the 2009-10 school year and 41 in the 2010-11 school year.

The data gives an incomplete picture of a problem that also concerns the state teachers' union.

Records obtained by The AP under the state Freedom of Information Law 7/8—and released by the state on Friday in advance of the Monday announcement—show cheating includes prompting a student to erase and re-do answers during a math Regents exam to accepting simple "qui" and "non" answers to teachers' questions on a French exam, instead of the required robust conversations.

The reports show the cases are also difficult for the small staff of the state education department to prove. Many cases involve erasures on tests with correct answers with no evidence of what motivated students to make the changes.

The New York Times also ran an article recently that focused on cheating allegations in the city school system. The article, published today, focused on 14 substantiated cases of cheating. For example: "A charter school teacher warned her 3rd graders that a standardized test question was 'tricky,' and they all changed their answers. A high school coach in Brooklyn called a student into the hallway and slipped her a completed answer sheet in a newspaper. In the Bronx, a principal convened Finish Your Lab Days, where biology students ended up copying answers for work they never did."

Concerns about cheating on state tests have simmered for years, especially as the tests have grown in importance. In New York, state test scores will be used in part to evaluate teacher performance. The issue made national headlines earlier this year after a cheating scandal broke in Atlanta.

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