Using the same type of data-analysis software employed by schools to track the progress of students and ensure they are meeting all relevant standards, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is launching an effort to catch cheating on standardized tests.
Officials will hire an outside expert to review security measures and build a tracking system to monitor test-score irregularities that could signal cheating, according to reports released on Jan. 10.
“We have zero tolerance for cheating,” Texas Education Agency Commissioner Shirley Neeley said in a statement released before a news conference.
The changes are in response to a Dallas Morning News investigation that found strong evidence that educators at nearly 400 schools statewide helped students cheat on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). The newspaper study identified schools whose test scores swung wildly from poor to stellar.
The agency’s announcement breaks with a previous policy of trusting school districts to police themselves. TEA officials had said they investigated cheating allegations only when a district requested it or when they received credible eyewitness evidence of cheating.
Neeley reminded educators of the consequences of cheating on the TAKS test, which could lead to the revocation of a teaching license and up to 10 years in prison, because falsifying testing documents is a third-degree felony.
“Texas educators understand that cheating on the test can be a career-ending move,” Neeley said in the statement.
Texas education policies on student accountability became the model for the federal No Child Left Behind law enacted after then-Gov. George W. Bush’s election as president in 2000.
Texas Education Agency