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State's test security proposals suggest big changes to come

The first recommendations of the state task force to boost test security are out, and they suggest that big changes could be coming to the way tests are administered and graded.

Next week, the Board of Regents will vote on a measure to start an immediate, independent review of how the state handles allegations of cheating.

No action is set yet on the rest of the recommendations. But they provide a blueprint of what the state might do to prevent cheating scandals like those that have gripped Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other cities.

To improve the current system, the state could prohibit teachers from proctoring their own students’ exams and even exams in the subject they teach; bar teachers from grading their own students’ exams, as many currently do; and keep completed exams on hand for longer than a year so they can be checked if cheating is alleged, the recommendations say. The Regents could turn those recommendations into official policy as soon as next month.

But a more substantive revision of the testing system would be even more secure, the working group concluded. The task force wants permission to sketch out — and cost out — a centralized, statewide scanning system that includes erasure analysis and other measures to check for irregularities in test results.

City officials say they support the changes — as long as the city doesn’t have to foot the bill.

“We applaud the state for proposing to centralize and strengthen security on its exams,” Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said in a statement. “Their proposals make a lot of sense, provided the costs are not passed on to districts like New York City, where we now spend more than $20 million a year to score state exams.”

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