Testing: Cheater Teacher

Pressure to make the grade has led more than a few students to jot answers on the soles of their sneakers. But new research published in the journal Education Next reveals that teachers are sometimes cheaters, too. Researchers Brian Jacob and Steven Levitt examined records from 1,000 Chicago classrooms over eight years and found that school staff help students cheat on standardized tests in 4 to 5 percent of classrooms. To find cheating, they identified classrooms where nearly all students answered questions identically, as well as classes that showed sharp increases in scores one year, followed by declines the next. Jacob and Levitt found that teachers went so far as to change students' answers, give them answers ahead of time and quiz them in advance with actual test questions.

Why cheat? Two motivations: sympathy for students who might be held back and fear of losing funding if they fail to show higher scores. (The study found that cheating jumped more than 30 percent after Chicago raised testing stakes.) Jacob says districts have an easy solution: hire outsiders to proctor standardized exams and don't distribute tests to administrators in advance. Districts might also remind teachers they'll face more than detention if caught.