Education

Test Expert Takes the Stand in Atlanta Cheating Trial

OCTOBER 1, 2014 ATLANTA Dr. Gregory Cizek, UNC professor and testing expert, testifies in court Wednesday morning.  Testimony continues Wednesday in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial before Judge Jerry Baxter in Fulton County Superior Court, Wednesday, October 1, 2014. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson, Pool)
OCTOBER 1, 2014 ATLANTA Dr. Gregory Cizek, UNC professor and testing expert, testifies in court Wednesday morning. Testimony continues Wednesday in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial before Judge Jerry Baxter in Fulton County Superior Court, Wednesday, October 1, 2014. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson, Pool)
Credit Kent Johnson / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A testing expert took the stand Wednesday in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial. Some defense attorneys questioned the state’s investigation. That was triggered after an analysis found an unusual number of erasures on state tests at several APS schools.

Broadcast version.

Gregory Cizek has written books about preventing and detecting cheating. Defense Attorney Benjamin Davis, who represents a former key administrator, questioned Cizek about the use of data.

“Do you write that it is commonly recommended by experts in testing that statistical methods of detecting cheating not be used to ejudiate [sic] investigations of suspected cheating?”

Cizek  said he had written it.

“Do you agree with that?” Davis asked him.

“No, I don’t actually,” Cizek replied. “This book was written in 1996, and like I said, the field of testing is a science and we’ve evolved.”

Technology has improved too, he said. Erasure marks are easier to detect.

“The machine, when the cameras look at those bubbles it’s looking for a level of darkness. And that scale, let’s just say for simplicity, will run from 1-16,” he said.  

One is the lightest; 16 the darkest.

The state investigation flagged the number of wrong-to-right erasures on tests. That is, when a student originally chooses the wrong answer to a question, but then erases and picks the right one.

Prosecutors believe some accused educators either participated in or ordered the erasures.

Because there was such a high number, Cizek said, an investigation was appropriate.

“Most kids, I’d say, don’t erase at all,” he said. “But on average, you might get one on a test of forty-something questions.”

However, Cizek said statistics alone don’t prove cheating occurred. Attorneys of the 12 defendants tried to make that point repeatedly.

WABE’s broadcast license is held by the Atlanta Board of Education.