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Consequences. In conjunction with limiting opportunities for cheating, we must revise the procedures that are used to unearth cheating and the penalties that are handed down. Many tests are currently administered behind closed classroom doors with little independent oversight; there are strong disincentives for educational personnel to report cheating; and, in most jurisdictions, the responsibility for investigating cheating rests with school personnel who have an inherent conflict of interest in ferreting out inappropriately high student achievement. Revised procedures should include: 1) random sampling and oversight of test sites; 2) increased protections for whistle-blowers; 3) stiffer penalties for cheaters, including permanent disqualification from teaching within a state and more coordinated sharing among the states of information regarding educators who have had their licenses revoked; and 4) assignment of investigative responsibilities to an independent authority.
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When cheating occurs, testing yields inaccurate information about individual students. The error is compounded when this information is then used for any educational purpose, and specific students wind up paying the price. One student may not receive the remedial instruction in reading that she needs. Another student may be incorrectly assigned to a special program for gifted and talented students that has a limited number of slots. Another may receive a scholarship that should have gone to one of his peers. And yet another may receive a diploma without having learned those minimum skills deemed necessary for success in college or on the job.