texting in class

Mississippi called in a company that turns technology against the cheats.

Mississippi had a problem born of the age of soaring student testing and digital technology. High school students taking the state’s end-of-year exams were using cellphones to text one another the answers.


With more than 100,000 students tested, proctors could not watch everyone — not when some teenagers can text with their phones in their pockets. So the state called in a company that turns technology against the cheats: it analyzes answer sheets by computer and flags those with so many of the same questions wrong or right that the chances of random agreement are astronomically small. Copying is the almost certain explanation.

Since the company, Caveon Test Security, began working for Mississippi in 2006, cheating has declined about 70%, said James Mason, director of the state d of education’s office of student assessment. “People know that if you cheat there is an extremely high chance you’re going to get caught,” Mason said.

As tests are increasingly important in education — used to determine graduation, graduate school admission and, the latest, merit pay and tenure for teachers — business has been good for Caveon, a company that uses “data forensics” to catch cheats, billing itself as the only independent test security outfit in the country.

Probability science has come a long way and Caveon says its analysis of answer sheets is the most sophisticated to date. In addition to looking for copying, its computers and can crunch up to one million records, hunt for illogical patterns, like test-takers who did better on harder questions than easy ones. That can be a sign of advance knowledge of part of a test.

When the anomalies are highly unlikely — their random occurrence, for example, is less than one in one million — Caveon flags the tests for further investigation by school administrators .

Via Times of India