The state's Department of Education on Monday recommended several measures to crack down on cheating on high-stakes exams that influence not only the futures of students but also ratings of public schools and teachers' careers.
The report to the state Board of Regents is aimed at cheating by students, teachers and administrators during Regents exams and in scoring.
The report says spot checks using "erasure analysis" of answers led to the investigation of seven unnamed schools. It notes "a statistically improbable grouping of scores" statewide just above the passing mark.
Records released Friday to The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Law request submitted in July found a growing concern about teachers prompting students toward correct answers or inflating scores, especially those near the 65-percent passing mark.
The state records provided to the AP show the cases also are difficult for the small staff of the state Department of Education to prove. Many cases involve erasures on tests with correct answers with no evidence of what motivated students to make the changes.
Cheating on Regents exams can frustrate parents and students who have sometimes seen all scores expunged because of cheating, forcing even students who had nothing to do with cheating to retake the exams in the summer or the following year.
The concern comes as Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has prosecuted a college student accused of using a fake ID to take SAT college board exams for six friends in a process she suspects is widespread. Georgia recently revoked the teaching licenses of eight Atlanta teachers and three school administrators over cheating. Cheating investigations also have been undertaken recently in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Monday's report to the state Board of Regents, which sets education policy, puts New York on a track from trailing most states in efforts to combat cheating toward a move in 2014 to taking Regents exams on computers and scoring them on computers. That will allow quicker analysis of answers and allow teachers to score tests from other counties, potentially no longer scoring tests of their students.
Other recommendations include:
— Spending more than $2 million in the 2012-13 budget to spot check more Regents exams and move to greater analysis of all Regents exams and their scoring.
— Prohibiting most teachers from scoring their own students' exams, although some benefit was seen in allowing teachers to be present during testing and proctor their students' tests.
— Retaining tests for more than one year, as now required, for potential investigations.
— Moving to "centralized scanning" of multiple-choice questions to better spot possible cheating. New York is unique in relying on local scoring, "and significant investments have been made at the local level to develop infrastructure." That includes assigning teachers to scoring duties and hiring substitutes to cover their classes.