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Checking for Cheaters

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February 9, 2005

A Utah-based company named Caveon has signed contracts with Delaware, North Carolina, and south Carolina that call for Caveon to monitor data from standardized tests, in particular looking for signs of cheating by the students who took the tests or the teachers who administered those tests. The company is also negotiating with several other states.

With standardized testing providing so much these days—school funding, teacher performance feedback, aid from the federal government—officials of the three states say it is only natural that they would want to make sure that the results they are reporting are accurate.

Officials insist that just the idea that potential cheaters know that an outside company will be checking for signs of illicit activity will be a deterrent enough. Others say that announced results of found cheaters will be the most effective kind of deterrent.

Caveon relies on looking for unusual patterns, such as a student getting difficult questions correct but missing easy ones or a test that contains multiple instances of erased answers. The concern is more that teachers and/or administrators are affecting the testing process. High-profile cases of answer-fixing have been reported in the past several years, especially as scrutiny has heightened.

In the past 18 months, state education officials in Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, and Texas have investigated charges of testing improprieties. In some cases, scores were thrown out or teachers were let go. A similar instance in North Carolina involved several teachers allegedly sharing answers with students before they took the test.

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