yong zhao on testing security

Yong Zhao » Blog Archive » Ditch Testing (Part 4): Test Security Measures in China Zhao has written a five-part series of posts in response to the Atlanta cheating scandal. They are all worth reading.

I want to focus on #4 Ditch Testing: Test Security Measures in China. Zhao describes the extensive security measures China takes to ensure that testing happens without cheating. From his post:
There are more layers of test security measures not mentioned in the Xinhua story. On testing days, there are electronic surveillance vehicles patrolling outside the testing site to intercept electronic signals; electronic devices are used to interfere electronic transmission; and devices to block cell phone reception. The reason for all these measures is the increased use of sophisticated wireless devices for cheating. Many of these devices rival equipment used by James Bond and his colleagues. Since 2001, electronic devices such as earpieces, watches, pens, and pencil erasers have been modified as receivers. Cheaters use these devices to receive answers transmitted from powerful equipment hidden in places near the test sites. The answers are provided by individuals who make a huge profit in this operation (prices differ for different tests but RMB2,000 is often mentioned per subject per test). These individuals hire content experts to come up with the answers to test items, which may have been transmitted by test proctors who use mini-cameras hidden in glasses or clothes they wear. Various government agencies, including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Industry and Information, Ministry of Public Safety (Police), and Ministry of Finance, have been working together to develop anti-cheating technologies and measures. But they are always behind. There is always newer anti-anti-cheating technology being developed. Ironically, the race between cheating and anti-cheating may have helped China’s technology advancement.
When citizens accept extreme measures like this as a daily thing, there are consequences. Citizens become used to authoritarian tactics and, growing ever more dangerous, private spending coalitions are formed that inflate the need and ensure that this sector cannot easily be changed. In simpler terms, there are good jobs in over-testing and once you start down that road, it is hard to change paths. Even China may want to examine that path (as they indeed are) seeing that the US, since WWII, has found it nearly impossible to control a military that has brought the largest economy on the globe to near disaster pursuing endless wars that were never a real threat to the US. Eisenhauer's famously prescient warning about the military-industrial complex did not take into account the birth of the modern corporation whose empowerment further reduces the effectiveness of citizens and communities to live their lives in freedom.

The extreme growth of top secret business after the 9/11 attacks,  shows how large bureaucracies that are not anchored securely into citizens lives can act against us.  Clearly, sustained economic stability is a security issue that big banks and the military are now collapsing in the name of security and risk diminishment.  Railing against government doesn't define the problem and only empowers private corporations which have the very same structure. I have blogged about how schools may have contributed to this by making everyone a bit too comfortable with large, hierarchical organizations and their procedures. And I continually write about how getting families in control of the process seems to me to be the best way to ensure that the provision of education resources for communities has a mechanism for anchoring educational bureaucracies to the citizens they should serve.

Zhao has the data and he makes the case against heading down a path we cannot afford to walk.  More high-stakes testing, more quants making tests secure, will only further diminish our communities and their economic viability.

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