Sunday, July 23, 2006

TAKS Test Cheating Probe Not Going Well

Last year, a consulting firm named Caveon was hired by the Texas Education Agency to check for cheating on the state's TAKS test. They ran all the test scores through a sophisticated computer program. This resulted in a list of 442 schools being labeled as possible cheaters in a report given to the TEA. The TEA notified the 442 schools and asked each school to investigate.

Many principals have since complained, saying they have not been given enough information to base an investigation on. They want information on what classrooms and what individuals are suspected. The TEA has told them that they do not have that information. They said it was never given to them by Caveon. Caveon received at least $500,000 to do the survey, and their contract expired in February. Caveon said they had met their obligations, and any further information provided would require a new contract.

The Dallas Morning News did some really good investigative work, and came up with the contract between Caveon and the TEA. The contract says, "Consultant agrees that all Works are, upon creation, works made for hire and the sole property of TEA." The contract went on to state, "Consultant hereby assigns to TEA all worldwide ownership rights, including the Intellectual Property Rights, in the Works, without the neccessity of any further consideration."

Surely the TEA has a copy of this contract. Why haven't they demanded that Caveon live up to the contract, and provide the neccessary information? Take them to court if they refuse. After all, the people of Texas have already paid for the information, they should be able to access it.

But that's not all the Dallas Morning News discovered. They have found evidence that the actual number of schools suspected of cheating was 609 and not 442. None of the extra 167 schools have been notified. Why? Because the TEA did not know about them! They said they were unaware of the additional schools and did not receive that information from Caveon.

It looks like the TEA screwed up by hiring Caveon. It is turning out to be a waste of the taxpayer's money, since the TEA won't require Caveon live up to the contract.

Don't expect this investigation of cheating to get very far. The schools don't have the information neccessary to do the job, and the TEA is either unwilling to or incapable of, providing that information. What a mess!

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