Hillsborough County, Fla., school officials are examining their test security after two eighth-grade honor students at a technology magnet middle school hacked into their science teacher’s computer, discovered the semester’s final exam, and sent it out over the internet to an unknown number of fellow students.
Instead of acing the exam, the two students were suspended for the rest of the semester and attended classes at an alternative school.
Cheating is nothing new among students. But Andi Ringer, Hillsborough’s supervisor of middle school science education, said this is the first she has heard of it being accomplished by hacking. “I guess this is a new glitch,” she told the St. Petersburg Times.
John Hilderbrand, director of testing for the school district, said the break-in occurred at Booker T. Washington Middle School in December.
Ringer and Hilderbrand said the test should not have been kept on the computer. “There’s too many ways of getting a copy of it,” Hilderbrand said. Students could have seen the teacher’s password, or they could have gotten an administrative password that overrides the teacher’s.
District policy is to keep tests secure. But how to do that with computers hasn’t been spelled out to the district’s 15,000 teachers.
The incident has prompted discussions about the need for a districtwide policy, Hilderbrand said. “We need to have a common understanding of what the word ‘secure’ means,” he said. “It’s never been written down.”