Tuesday, December 28, 2010

CSI for Cheating

Interesting piece in NYT today about a company that uses advanced statistical forensics to figure out whether students/schools are cheating on standardized exams.  I am not a big fan of distrusting students (I don't submit my students papers to turnitin.com to detect plagiarism), but I do not mind the use of stats to figure out how prevalent cheating is on the big tests. 

Testing at the high school level and below can be quite problematic because schools and states have created incentives for better scores, sometimes leading to cheating by teachers to save their jobs, get awards, and help their school (the first Freakonomics book documented this pretty well).  So, having a check on this makes sense. 

I guess I am glad that market competition not only fosters companies that seek to help students cheat but also helps combat cheating.  The first thing I thought about when I saw this piece was: arms race.  The competition between cheater and detector will continue.  I am afraid that this article does reveal some of the ways in which cheating is detected so that the cheaters can evade detection.  Still, I am pretty sure that both sides still have stuff up their sleeves.

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