Education Week Issue 25 - Technology Counts 2014 - 35
of 21,000 questions for exams, so students can't glance at one
another's screens and expect to see the same questions and then
copy answers, he said.
In addition, districts using Smarter Balanced tests are required to use a secure browser, developed with open-source code
by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, to
administer the tests, Mr. Redd said. The browser locks down the
digital devices students are using to take the tests, preventing
them from going elsewhere on the Internet to find answers, access apps to help them cheat, or take screen shots to share with
other students. The browser interfaces with the testing system,
periodically checking to make sure the student-testing devices
have remained secure during the testing periods, he said.
The browser has been certified to work with most of today's devices and operating systems, including Mac, Windows, and ios. It
will also work with most tablets-though those devices are more
of a challenge since there is less consistency in operating systems
among them, Mr. Redd said.
Smarter Balanced is also providing a certification for emerging devices as new technology develops, he said. The onus is on
device-makers to make sure the browser works.
What's more, the test questions are stored using online security
measures to prevent hackers from accessing them, Mr. Redd said.
The other major consortium developing common-core assessments, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College
and Careers, or parcc, has also built secure browsers and, since
its test is not adaptive, is making recommendations to schools
and districts about how computers and testing centers should be
set up to prevent cheating, said Jeffrey Nellhaus, the director of
policy, research, and design for parcc. The consortium's manual
recommends, for example, putting a cardboard barrier or a curtain between computers to prevent cheating.
While adaptive tests, secure browsers, and plagiarism-detecting software are helping to make the testing process more secure, experts caution that educators should not be lulled into a
false sense of security.
"The biggest threat to test security is the cellphone," said Ray
Nicosia, the executive director of the office of testing integrity for
the Educational Testing Service, a test-development and -administration company based in Princeton, N.J. "There are so many
things the cellphone brings into play: copying, communication,
text-messaging, cameras, videos."
A 2011 survey by the San Francisco-based Common Sense
Media, a nonprofit organization that studies the effects of technology and media on young people, found that 83 percent of 13to 18-year-olds had cellphones and 35 percent of those cellphone
owners said they had used their phones to cheat in school.
Schools typically request that students stow or give up
cellphones during testing, and many schools even collect devices
before a test begins, returning them after the testing.
But that's no guarantee students won't sneak one in, Mr. Nicosia
said. So the ets works with companies that monitor the Internet
and scan for key words included in a test to ensure questions are
not copied and then posted on the Web. And some of its tests are
only given in centers that are certified as secure.
But the ets is starting to experiment with new approaches that
could be a harbinger of the future for districts, such as voice-recognition software to prevent imposter test-takers and bring-yourown-device models for test-takers. A bring-your-own-device pilot
test allowed test-takers to bring laptops-no tablets or other devices were permitted-to sit for the company's Test of English as a
Foreign Language exam, or toefl, to evaluate English proficiency.
A secure browser was loaded onto the laptops for the test, which
blocked users from visiting the web or outside apps. The browser
was successful in preventing cheating, Mr. Nicosia said.
school year, a student used a cellphone to take a photo of an
exam answer key and text it to other students.
"It was a modern version of somebody making a photocopy of
the test and giving it to someone else," said Principal Brett Zuver.
The students involved were disciplined, and the school has
upgraded its anti-cheating efforts. When students take quizzes
on their school-issued iPads, teachers use an app to lock down
the devices during testing, so they can't browse the Internet,
Mr. Zuver said. "It's a whole different world these days," he
said. "It's important for students to learn appropriate use on
Even as some districts are preparing to fight high-tech cheating, they're also examining the quality of assessments.
In the 651,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District,
chief technology officer Themistocles Sparangis said technology provides more of a digital footprint to trace cheaters, such
as catching students who post stolen test questions to their
Facebook pages. Plus, students who try to tamper with an online testing system may be traced to a particular account or
computer, he said.
But, Mr. Sparangis said, educators should appreciate that
poorly designed tests that do not measure critical thinking are
likely to be easier to cheat on. For instance, he said if a test
is trying to determine whether students have memorized the
state capitals, and a student sneaks a cellphone in to track
down that information online, the problem is not just about the
cheating, but also the quality of the assessment.
"If a student can go on the Internet with their smartphone and
answer some question and submit it, as wrong as that behavior
is, I would question what the test is really testing," Mr. Sparangis
said. "It makes you reconsider the kind of test you're giving. We
should be trying to drive those higher-order thinking skills and
deeper comprehension analysis." n
threat to test
security is the
are so many
into play: copying,
Office of Testing Integrity
Educational Testing Service
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In California, where hundreds of state tests have recently been
called into question because test questions were posted on socialnetworking sites, state testing experts have been hiring companies for three years to do social-media checks on testing day to
make sure questions don't show up on Facebook or Instagram, said
Diane Hernandez, the director of the assessment development and
administration division for the California education department,
which tests 4 million students annually and has only recently
started to move toward widespread online testing. "We want to
ensure the validity and reliability of these tests," she said.
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TECHNOLOGY COUNTS 2014
Education Week Issue 25 - Technology Counts 2014
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week Issue 25 - Technology Counts 2014
Education Week Issue 25 - Technology Counts 2014 - 1
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