Sunday, January 28, 2018

Breaking News: It's Easy To Cheat On Line

iReady is one of many test prep businesses that have popped up since No Child Left Behind reared its misbegotten head. They say they're in the "curriculum associates" business, but for you civilians in the audience, here's how these things work:

Shocked! I am shocked!

See, one of the challenges of the Big Standardized Test is that it's only given once a year, so schools have to approach this potentially school-whacking test (in Florida, it results in the school getting a letter grade) armed with no information other than last year's scores. For many schools, that's not enough. "What I need," administrators say, "is a way to spot the students who are going to screw us by getting low scores. And if you could target exactly what we should drill them on, that would be cool. And if you could sell us the drills, that would be most awesome of all."

So many of these tests sprang up, tests that were sold as diagnostic, but which were diagnosing only one thing-- how would this student fare on the BS Test.

There have been plenty of these, and what's most remarkable about them is what a terrible job they do of actually predicting BS Test scores. But they are also excellent at wasting money and time, as well as driving home the notion that school is mostly about  taking lots of tests in order to get ready for other tests. This, incidentally, is why states that make noise about shortening the BS Test aren't really helping anything-- test prep testing remains as obtrusive as ever.

That's the situation in Florida, where iReady has been deployed for several years. As the i suggests, iReady combines test prepping with on-line personalized [sic] algorithm selected mass custom drill. The beauty of the online approach is, of course, that students can be hounded by their cyber-taskmaster at home. That's been a point of contention and non-clarity for a while,

But Boca News Now reports there's another issue.

Parents throughout South Palm Beach County are using iReady on behalf of their children, possibly skewing scores — and usefulness — of the $6-Million diagnostic computer system.

Yup. It turns out that when you give students computer work to do outside of school, well-- sometimes parents cheat. I know! Next someone will be claiming that some projects at the elementary science fair were not completed by students working all on their own.

You may have looked at various work-at-home cyber education models and thought, "Surely they must know it's an issue, so surely they must have sophisticated safeguards in place." Well, not so much. iReady's crack team looks for sudden jumps in score. Apparently iReady's crack team doesn't know much about cheating:

However, has learned this is apparently not fool proof as parents log in and complete coursework with just enough errors to make the results seem plausible.

Well, yeah. 

iReady also provides little of the information that could be useful to teachers (e.g. showing that third grader Chris logged on at 11 PM last night).

But don't worry. BocaNewsNow reports that the district is looking at yet another test prep service-- this one called TenMarks, from the fine people at That should be just awesome, in a totally non-cheaty way.


  1. Students gaming things they don't care about is,unfortunately, too much of education. As a teacher, it's super hard to come up with things that your class will really enjoy and buy into. I would rack my brains trying to come up with a genuinely interesting assignment that could compete with the lure of video games, cell phones, and sports on their laptops. It's really not easy.

  2. My district used iReady for two years and dropped it as a "diagnostic" assessment tool. The kids would make fun of it's phony avatar like talking characters that tried to be "engaging" and cool. Reading passages presented "individually" to students were clearly recycled from other publishers and forced students to find evidence, not interpret. Perhaps the students assigned this practice at home begged their parents to do it for them, not to cheat but to make it go away!!

  3. If software people had any idea how much kids dislike and reject busy work, boring material, bad attempts at "cool", and test-prep activities they would all become baristas. Engaging this jaded and socially distracted generation of students with classwork that they take seriously involves crafting customized activities that no code writer could imagine.