Cheating Our Children: Suspicious School Test Scores Across the Nation

Heather Vogell et al., Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 25, 2012

Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the integrity of school testing.

The analysis doesn’t prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.

A tainted and largely unpoliced universe of untrustworthy test results underlies bold changes in education policy, the findings show. The tougher teacher evaluations many states are rolling out, for instance, place more weight than ever on tests.

Perhaps more important, the analysis suggests a broad betrayal of schoolchildren across the nation. As Atlanta learned after cheating was uncovered in half its elementary and middle schools last year, falsified test results deny struggling students access to extra help to which they are entitled, and erode confidence in a vital public institution.


In nine districts, scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion.

In Houston, for instance, test results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year, the analysis shows. When children moved to a new grade the next year, their scores plummeted—a finding that suggests the gains were not due to learning.

Overall, 196 of the nation’s 3,125 largest school districts had enough suspect tests that the odds of the results occurring by chance alone were worse than one in 1,000.

For 33 of those districts, the odds were worse than one in a million.

A few of the districts already face accusations of cheating. But in most, no one has challenged the scores in a broad, public way.

The newspaper’s analysis suggests that tens of thousands of children may have been harmed by inflated scores that could have precluded tutoring or more drastic administrative actions.

The analysis shows that in 2010 alone, the grade-wide reading scores of 24,618 children nationwide—enough to populate a midsized school district—swung so improbably that the odds of it happening by chance were less than one in 10,000.


The findings come as government officials, reeling from recent scandals, are beginning to acknowledge that a troubling amount of score manipulation occurs. Though the federal government requires the tests, it has not mandated screening scores for anomalies or investigating those that turn up.


Test-score pressure is palpable in schools grappling with urban blight and poverty.

These are the schools that the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to fix.

But at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy in St. Louis, airy red brick towers rising above the school belie a grimmer reality on the ground. Children leaving one recent afternoon passed piles of trash and a .45 caliber bullet tucked into the curb. Inside, their classrooms are beset by mold, rats, discipline problems and scandal.

Last year, the former principal—once hailed as among the district’s strongest—was accused by Missouri officials of falsifying attendance rolls to get more state money.

State investigators didn’t publicly question Henry’s test scores.

But the AJC’s analysis found suspicious scores in the school dating back to 2007. In 2010, for instance, about 42 percent of fourth-graders passed the state math test. When the class took the tests as fifth-graders the next year—with state investigators looking into cheating and other fraud allegations—just 4 percent passed math.

Experts say student learning doesn’t typically jump backwards.

Henry’s scores were consistently among the lowest in the state—except for the occasional sudden leap.


Big-to-medium-sized cities and rural districts harbored the highest concentrations of suspect tests. No Child Left Behind may help explain why. The law forced districts to contend with the scores of poor and minority students in an unprecedented way, judging schools by the performance of such “subgroups” as well as by overall achievement.

Hence, high-poverty schools faced some of the most relentless pressure of the kind critics say increases cheating.

Improbable scores were twice as likely to appear in charter schools as regular schools. Charters, which receive public money, can face intense pressure as supposed laboratories of innovation that, in theory, live or die by their academic performance.

Common problems unite the big-city districts with the most prevalent suspicious scores: Many faced state takeovers if scores didn’t improve quickly. Teachers’ pay or even their continued employment sometimes depended on test performance. And their students—mostly poor, mostly minority—were among those needing the most help.


Some of the most persistently suspicious test scores nationwide, however, occurred in districts renowned for cutting-edge reforms.

In Atlanta, for instance, former Superintendent Beverly Hall won national recognition as Superintendent of the Year in 2009. State investigators later confirmed scores that year were widely manipulated by educators who assisted students improperly and outright changed tens of thousands of their answers on state tests.

In some Atlanta schools, cheating was an open secret for years. After students turned in their tests, teachers and administrators erased and corrected their mistakes—even holding a “changing party” at a teacher’s home. In another school, staff opened plastic wrap securing test booklets with a razor, then melted the wrap shut again after making forbidden copies.

State investigators accused a total of 38 principals with participating in test-tampering. One allegedly wore gloves while erasing to avoid leaving fingerprints.



In 2002, [the city of] Houston was the first winner of the Broad Prize, which has become the most coveted award in urban education. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation praised Houston’s intense focus on test results. More recently, Houston has been among the leaders in tying teacher pay to student test scores.

But twice in the past seven years, the AJC found, Houston exhibited fluctuations with virtually no chance of occurring except through tampering.

In 2005, scores fell precipitously in five dozen classes in 38 schools after a statistical analysis by the Dallas Morning News suggested test-tampering in Houston. The district fired teachers and principals and improved test security.

In 2011, however, as three-fourths of Houston teachers earned performance-based bonuses, scores rose improbably in a similar number of classes in the same number of schools. In the same year, Houston confirmed nine cheating allegations and fired or took other action against 21 employees.


The AJC sent detailed findings to districts with some of the most suspicious clusters of scores. For those not already publicly looking at cheating, the responses were similar: Officials said they were unaware of most anomalies, but protested characterizing the score changes as cheating.


Some districts simply denied any problems exist. Detroit, for instance, claimed its scores were not “unusual or out of line in any way” and that Michigan officials had not identified irregularities “with respect to an erasure analysis, suspected cheating, or any other issue.”


Through programs such as Race to the Top, federal education officials have pushed states to adopt more aggressive teacher evaluation systems that, typically, consider test scores.

“Whatever the stakes were under No Child Left Behind,” Ravitch said, “they are going to be much higher, now that teachers are being told your scores are going to be public and you’re going to be fired if they don’t go up X number of years in a row.”


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  • IstvanIN

    Perhaps it is time for a new study.  A book titled “Why Trayvon Can’t Read”.

    • From seeing his facebook and twitter it seems to be from to much drugs. There is nothing but drug talk on there , but his parents think it was the police that snitched on their lie about the suspension for tardyness actually being about drugs.

  • PlayingRootsBackwards1

    As I have pointed out many times, the solution to the problem of educating Blacks is to give each Black child a Masters Degree from one of our better universities at the time they are born. The single parent could select the school and major at the same time she is making up an odd name for her offspring. The diploma would then be printed on the same document as the birth certificate and could be separated by tearing along the perforated line.

    This approach would allow the schools to quit going though the motions of educating Black children, which would allow them more time to educate White and East Asian children who are actually educable.

    The only downside to this system that I can foresee is that  banners and letters from college sports teams may be co-opted as gang insignia.  

    • Oil Can Harry

      Like when Bill Cosby was given an honorary doctorate from a university; afterward the credits to his sitcom listed him as Dr William H.Cosby Jr. PhD.

  • holyflower

    The testing approach to holding public schools accountable cannot be work for many reasons. Too much is at stake for:

    * persons being evaluated (students, teachers, principals, superintendents),
    *for the persons administering the tests (teachers),
    *for the test scorers (teachers),
    *for the test designers (state departments of public instruction), and
    *for the those providing the funding for schools (politicians).

    The temptation to manipulate the testing process cannot be resisted.What is the alternative? Choice, the market, is how most products and services are held accountable, not by performance on state-designed tests. Parents would be better served with a strong “exit option,” the option to leave a school that is not working for their children, without penalty. Parents need the option to take their business — with the funding to which they are entitled — elsewhere, including home. Even if independent, outside testing companies were to come into schools and administer high stakes tests, there would still be pressure on the outside testing company to produce politically fuseful results — or risk losing the testing contract to a more “reliable” performer.
    The testing approach to holding our government schools accountable thus cannot work. We need to abandon it. Instead, let us unleash market dynamics lift school performance —as it has with the vast majority of products and services we consume.

  • Our children? I wasn’t aware that the cities of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland and Detroit had a lot of Italians and Germans living in them.

    This is a BLACK PROBLEM pure and simple. I.e., education ruins a good cotton picker. The most blacks are capable of doing with their intellect is basic, manual labor. It is unfortunate that we have to pretend that they are Whites and can gain anything from school beyond say, 6th or 8th grade at the maximum.

    Until there is an acknowledgement that a black man has an IQ in the low 80s and a black teen has an IQ in the low 70s, nothing will change. Same with the “Hispanic immigrants” who in many cases are their race’s lower class with IQs in the mid 80s and English not as a second language, but not even an option. Plenty of times these immigrants are illiterate even in their own tongues so getting them to read and write English is an absolute impossibility.

    If schooling wasn’t mandatory and there wasn’t breakfast and lunch given to the “disadvantaged yoofs” I don’t even think blacks and browns would go to school. It is babysitter and preparatory prison for them, nothing more.


    • It’s like you reached into my mind and put into written words a lifetime of experience.  With some few exceptions out of millions of cases, you have placed your finger squarely on the issue.  Those that worship at the altar of Natural Selection, especially when mocking Christian beliefs, need to search their reasoning when ascribing higher order functions to negroes.  It is plain that for some 500 years negroes were bred for manual labor.  How is it that in the last couple of decades the “magic negro” has appeared?  It is a fabrication born of the marxist desire to utilize the least of us in roles that will weaken the Republic.  And if we allow this to continue we will deny our beautiful and intelligent white children the opportunity to keep alive American Exceptionalism and we will truly be finished.   

      • IstvanIN

        No No No!  Black educational failure is due to bad teachers and the teacher’s union.  Just break the teacher’s union and get rid of tenure and blacks will rise to the top!  Just ask the (Republican) govenor of NJ.  Gosh knows he says it enough.

      • Until whites shared the cure for malaria blacks in africa had no need to farm/store/plan/ build. There is a reason whites go to africa to dig wells but there are at least 2 still working 2000yo  aqueducts supplying water to european cities, and there where many before the 2 world wars.
        Africa used to be sparcely populated due to disease and unlike chimanzees that are smart enough to cure malaria(search chimp self medicate) the only way blacks could avoid it was having the sickle cell genes. The main difference between blacks and those that evolved elsewhere is the ability for abstract thought numbers/math/time. The UN term useless eaters refer to those that evolved in the tropics that cannot advance.

  • JackKrak

    “Common problems unite the big-city districts with the most prevalent suspicious scores: Many faced state takeovers if scores didn’t improve quickly. Teachers’ pay or even their continued employment sometimes depended on test performance.”

    Bam. That’s all you need to know right there. “Big-city districts” means Democrats. Democrats mean majority-minority payrolls. Majority-minority payrolls mean incompetence, failure and a total inability to meet any reasonable standard of performance. When the consequences finally come around it becomes a matter of incentives and risks – incentives to cheat in order to keep jobs and bonuses versus the risk of getting caught. Many of us have long known what they were doing & now we have proof.

  • The Core is:  Non-Whites must be included at any and all costs.

    Y’all know damn well better than I,  Our Beloved America is Dead.

  • JohnEngelman

    No Child Left Behind makes school teachers even less willing than previously to teach blacks and Hispanics because it claims that they ought to be able to get the same results they could with whites and Orientals. 
    The only benefit of NCLB is that it has provided fresh evidence for The Ball Curve. 

  • CSThinker

    That’s funny, here in France we have the exact same problem with the African and Muslim population. They are so patently bad in the intellectual fields that the State now makes it compulsory for employers  ( private and public alike ) to have a certain amount of “ethnic minorities” in their staff.

     The same policiy is now being applied to Universities where your ethnic origin ( as long as you are from African or North-African stock ) can get you ahead of other applicants, even if your academic results are lower than the others. At the beginning, it was confined to fields that don’t require too much intelligence, like Political Sciences or Journalism, now it’s moving to Scientific Universities and ” Grandes Ecoles” where the current Socialist Party Presidential candidate would have a minimum of 5%  of B and Muslims enrolled, on the sole basis of them being B and/or Muslims. I cannot describe you enough the sheer anger the deserving people who get bypassed by good-for-nothings experience. 

    Last year, a French girl’s application to the Institut d’Etude Politique was turned away to favor a Muslim,  (who scored lower than her ), that poor soul had then to choose another path for her ENTIRE life.

    Affirmative action is racism at its best.

  •  Thanks

  • RationalBeing

    Other countries do not suffer the same intellectual deficiencies that have seized our educational establishment.  They have surged ahead, sometimes from a very low level in terms of industrial development.

    Germany went from a devastated enemy of the Allies to the leading exporting country in the world, until recently overtaken on that score by a country with a population four times its own.  German products have never lost their reputation for excellence in engineering and quality.

    Japan, until recently the second-largest economy on the world, is the only country subject to nuclear attack.  Its vicious imperial government deposed, and headed by a figurehead “emperor,” Japan nevertheless managed to rebuild from the depths of its defeat in World War II.

    Even Britain, despite its travails and decline, beckons as a financial center of the world and the home of great universities of science and classical knowledge.  The United Kingdom remains a beacon of humanity despite its recent and self-inflicted wounds from misguided beliefs in “multiculturalism.”

    These countries share, or shared, a belief in academic honesty and rigor and did not allow inferior-performing peoples to swamp its national systems in the name of egalitarianism.  And now, even the French are realizing that multiculturalism is something of a suicide pact if left uncontrolled — if left to its own devices.

    Only America believed that it was too big to fail, that academic failure was okay as long as we blindly “felt good about ourselves” and our wondeful and standardless “diversity.”

    And now China is following in the footeps of Japan, but China is ten times bigger than Japan, and it will put our national illusions to the test — literally and figuratively.

    American exceptionalism can go only so far.  Our white creativity can take us only where the blind, deaf, and dumb policies of our governing elites somehow fail to suppress it.  As in Nordic tales of old, we lift the foundations of the world as others conceal their trembling, but even so we can only do so much.

    As others have slept and awakened, so too, must we wake from our racial illusions and understand the truth of intellectual performance.  Otherwise, there is nought but failure and decline ahead. 

    • mikejones91

      Awhile back, I read a comment on YouTube that really spoke to me lol. Asians are smart, Blacks are athletic, and Whites are creative. Sounds about right.

  • holyflower

    I would prefer zero government involvement with education.  But I don’t see that happening, the entitlement mentality being now so firmly entrenched.   Vouchers may not go far enough, but they move us in the right direction.

    • The_Bobster

      Not if they allow allow ghetto dwellers to invade and disrupt good schools.

      • holyflower

        It certainly is possible to put strings on a voucher to create that risk, but the G. I. Bill was a kind of voucher that had few strings, i. e, did not force colleges to abandon standards.

        There is also the issue of being able to “top up” a voucher, that is, require parents to pay tuition over and above what the voucher covers.  Parents need to have a financial stake in their choice.  If voucher had to cover the full tuition that would not be healthy.

        Tax credits for donations to non-profits that award “scholarships” is a less entangling way to promote choice.  A few states have these.  From the Chicago Tribune:

        “In his criticism of the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, Eric Zorn adopts Justice Elena Kagan’s analogy of tax credits for contributions to scholarship funds for private schools (STOs) to reimbursement of taxpayers for buying crucifixes. The obvious problem with the analogy is that the Arizona law grants tax credits for contributions to STOs irrespective of whether the scholarships are used for parochial or non-parochial schools. The more accurate, albeit silly, analogy would be if the state were to issue a “wall decoration” tax credit of $500 per person. That program would not run afoul of the Establishment Clause just because many people choose to spend their “wall decoration” tax credit on crucifixes. Indeed, how is the Arizona STO law any different in principle than the current federal tax deduction for charitable organizations, which applies to religious and secular charities alike?”

    •  The only way to get government totally out of education is to repeal all compulsory-attendance laws. Until that is done, all the rest is window-dressing, because the lazy, apathetic and low-IQ kids will simply shuffle around from school to school, wreaking havoc at every one.

      Right after the hideous Brown SCOTUS ruling, several places tried to circumvent it by simply shutting down their public school systems. Good idea, but it failed because of those attendance laws. If you’re going to force kids to attend school, you’ve got to provide schools for them to attend. Had the state legislature scrapped the attendance laws first, the strategy would have worked.

      Even if all public schools were abolished and private schools were flourishing (along with homeschooling), those attendance laws would still be evil and in need of abolition because they are based on an evil and sinister premise — that children are government property.

      • holyflower

        You are right.  Compulsory attendance laws are the foundation for the entire “education” fiasco.  But Obama recently urged all 50 states to raise the compulsory attendance age to 18.  The trend is in exactly the wrong direction:

        “Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already require students to remain enrolled until they are 18 years old, while 11 others require attendance until age 17, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States. The other 18 states still use the traditional age of 16 as their attendance requirement, though lawmakers in several of those states have tried unsuccessfully in recent years to raise it.” (“Obama Rekindles State Debates on Dropout Age, Education Week, February 8, 2012)

  • The_Bobster

    In some ways, that would make it easier to cheat.  In this scenario, students should have to go to testing sites, get ID’d and then watched by proctors.

  • rentslave

    All Jews should be forced to marry blacks.

  • APaige

    Even with large scale CHEATING, the racial gap is STILL evident.

  • ageofknowledge

    Time for a pure voucher system.

    • Kurt Plummer

      Vouchers give the government way too much lookin as intrusive determinism on what is a valid educational institution and whether or not you can apply your money to it.  It is begging to shut down home schooling and neighborhood schooling on the basis of classification rather than quality.  Of ‘participancy’ (no blacks or hispanics -or- asians need apply!) which is itself the definition of failing quality by overemphasis on quantity that has _doomed_ these races, from the beginning.  ‘Quantity has a quality all it’s own’ is functionally disproven by looking at the sweltering holes of Dharavi and Kibera.  As the nations with the largest populations, by common sense, devote the least resources to each and have the least class-commitment to them because they can throw away and replace any who ‘ask too much’.
      I would also like to see education revamped at a deeper level.
      First by acknowledging the differential in attention spans between adults and children.  A child might have 2-3 periods of 30-45 minutes of focussed concentration mental resources to give to a given subject in a day and after that, it’s all just water over the spillway.  Forgotten and saturatively contaminating what -is- usefully learned.
      Someone commented on ‘new math’.  Well, one of the things that makes asians so brilliant at math is that they see it in spatial terms.  So sit junior down in front of a computer and let it’s animations draw the -physical- conjunctions as –> operation –> operation –> outcome.  Once they understand the process, through demonstration, you can build on this (every operation is basically an addition or subtraction on a scalar level).  The key then becomes APPLICATION of the literally ‘geometry’ driven math to pulled conceptuals.  Wherein you teach basic ‘grammar’ of math.  As divisor to denominator to dividend, multiples from subsets.  In a process of term identification similar to subject/object equivalents in math.
      And again, there is no ned to make this be purely subjective to the person’s perceptions.  You can SHOW them the differentiations.  By simple rote repetition.  Pull this term from this point in the paragraph and apply it over here to this point in the formula.  And away we go.
      Now couple the concepts together:  Rather than teach 6-8 different subjects at once for 8 hours a day, teach two for 3.  Then let them go as their brains ‘settle in’ with what they DO know.
      Now, imagine that there are no 3 month slumps as summer vacation.  And you rotate through subjects, developing these complete (multigrade level) competencies as you go: English, Math, Sciences, Engineering, Logic, Psychology.
      That entire ‘packages’ of mathematics are taught as -applied- knowledge (here is where you will use it…), solving real world problems rather than theoreticals.  Say in building a car or a landscaped garden or a website as the ‘end goal’ of the experiment.  And in one to two months of concentrated effort, you can raise the entire knowledge core of the individual.  Because they are not learning snippets.  They are learning algebra through trig.  As a real-world useful set of concepts.
      Obviously, such a group can advance through courses at more than a rote/Archimedian spiral level of recursive education.  Equally certain, such individuals will be _highly_ advantaged over the daycare-til-18 crowd when it comes to college entrances as they will be essentially operating at college level competence by the time they are 12-14 years old.  Finally, you cannot teach at this level to 80-85 IQ levels.  It must be the best for the best.
      We NEED this kind of intelligent revision of how education works.  Just like we NEED to revert to gender segregated classes of no more than 10-15 children.  We could do this, if we would just learn to THINK about (and validate through psychometrics and advanced imaging) the kinds of intelligence as the sponge-period and brain area functionality by which learning takes place.  And the funds for it would be available, if we didn’t invest in the unsaveable.
      This is achieveable.  If we put teachers with crushing school loans and no place to stay in small, in-neighborhood, homes, perhaps adjacent to parks or other physical recreation outlets.  And hook those homes up with basements filled with computers and network linked, graduate level, access to collegiate course instruction from a central campus location.  Course tutoring can be made available based on demand rather than assumption (click the ‘help’ key and pull up an interactive window with the nearest available teacher sitting at a help desk, further reducing the multi-disciplinary competence required of your base teacher).
      And the costs would be those of paying for individual houses worth of electricity, rather than the MASSIVE requirements of traditional school buildings with their security and air conditioning and enough lights to flood a football stadium etc. etc.
      CONCLUSION:  Racially, the school system _cannot be saved_.  We should not be concerned with the ‘ability’ of blacks and hispanics to ruin whatever they touch.  It’s time to take the conflict over freedom of association and the right to an assurance of our way of life as our posterity to the next level.  With a replacement system that cherry picks the best teachers, methods and equipment (as college level course prep) from the existing morass and gives them…to our children.  Because if we are not going to be the most, we had damned well better CONTINUE to be the most in demand.  As the Parsi are in India.  And the Jews are whereever they go.

  • If you mean China, it’s neither four nor forty. PRC has 1340 M inhabitants, Germany 82 M.
    So, it’s 16.3 times bigger.

  • anarchyst

    One “small” problem with Germany is that “homeschooling” is prohibited by law.