Friday, July 20, 2007

Cheating on standardized tests isn't fleeting -- it's predictable

Whatever the final outcome of the investigation into allegations of cheating on state-mandated tests for two consecutive years at University Preparatory Charter High School in East Oakland that led to the resignation of its director, Isaac Haqq, one thing is certain: The wrongdoing was altogether predictable, although not for the reasons being widely circulated in the community.

While lax oversight of the school undoubtedly played a role in the scandal, the cause is more fundamental. More than 30 years ago, Donald Campbell, an eminent social scientist, warned about the danger of measuring effectiveness by a single influential metric. The more any quantitative indicator is used for decision-making, he said, the more subject it will be to corruption and the more it will corrupt the very process it is intended to monitor.

The use of high-stakes testing is precisely the kind of process that Campbell's Law unwittingly foresaw. When attention is focused on standardized test scores to the exclusion of other factors in evaluating educational quality, the stage is ideally set for unethical behavior. Uprep, however, is not alone. And neither are charter schools.

This from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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