Cheating Patrol

Apparently some online technology actually hindering some academic cheating. According to a piece by Trip Gabriel in the New York Times:

Mississippi had a problem born of the age of soaring student testing and digital technology. High school students taking the state’s end-of-year exams were using cellphones to text one another the answers. With more than 100,000 students tested, proctors could not watch everyone — not when some teenagers can text with their phones in their pockets.

So the state called in a company that turns technology against the cheats: it analyzes answer sheets by computer and flags those with so many of the same questions wrong or right that the chances of random agreement are astronomical. Copying is the almost certain explanation. Since the company, Caveon Test Security, began working for Mississippi in 2006, cheating has declined about 70 percent, said James Mason, director of the State Department of Education’s Office of Student Assessment. “People know that if you cheat there is an extremely high chance you’re going to get caught,” Mr. Mason said.

The founder of the company, John Fremer, once worked as the chief test developer for the SAT.

Caveon also helps figure out cheating on other examinations, including the SAT and the LSAT. For these, more sophisticated tests, the company doesn’t merely look for statistical anomalies. According to the article, the company looks for LSAT cheating by patrolling “the Internet looking for leaked questions on sites [Caveon] calls ‘brain dumps,’ where students who have just taken an exam discuss it openly.”

But then, Mississippi could perhaps have saved some money by not testing all of its students using the exact same crappy, multiple choice examination—which helps determine graduation, college admissions, and merit pay for teachers—but whatever.

Caveon declined to reveal how much it charges clients to look for cheating.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer