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Alonso on cheating schools: There will be more

Baltimore city schools Andres Alonso said last week that while the school district has gone to great lengths to tighten testing security, he anticipates coming before the city again to announce that more schools attempted to game the system.

There are two more investigations pending, from a batch of four schools referred to the state last year.  The 2011 Maryland School Assessments will be released next week.

In a news conference last week, Alonso told reporters that it may take one or two more years before cheating is eradicated from the system. He vowed, however, that at some point, "we will emerge from this conversation--it may take one or two years--but we will emerge with our heads held high."

He also indicated that Maryland's new teacher evaluation system, which is partly based on student progress, will spur a "perverse incentive to do something wrong." Baltimore is one of seven districts that will pilot the new state evaluation system in the fall.

Alonso said the incentive could be stronger in the city, where teachers passed a contract last fall tying their salaries to performance evaluations.

This past year, the school system spent nearly $400,000 to place monitors in all 200 of its schools and to implement stringent protocols — such as taping up all boxed test booklets with tamper-proof tape — ensuring that test materials were secured every day.

The schools chief also sent out a pretty intimidating video message to the school system shortly before 2011 MSA testing began. As one principal told me, "you would have been an idiot to try and cheat this year." You can view the video here.Still, Alonso warned: "We will come before you again, because the people who didn't get the message last year — and there are a few, and it only takes one or two — were not ready for this. And we're not going to let a single instance pass."

I'm interested to hear from our readers: How prevalent do you think cheating is in the school system? And more importantly, what will it take for schools to stop cheating?  

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