State cheating investigation stalled

Officials say more money is needed to handle increasing caseload

April 16, 2012

Illinois education officials say cases of cheating on state exams by teachers and principals are on the rise.

Those cases add to a pile of about 300 other cases of misconduct that range from cheating to inappropriate relationships with students.

That’s why this year the Illinois State Board of Education wants to double the amount of money dedicated to investigations, restoring it to 2011 levels.

Darren Reisberg, deputy superintendent at the state Board of Education, said the money would help his department speed up the process or hire an investigator to help with the caseload.

Misconduct investigations are timely and cost a significant amount of money, Reisberg said.

The state is also still investigating suspicious patterns on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which is taken by every third through eighth grade student.

That analysis would look for high number of answers changed from wrong to right, unlikely large gains from one year to the next and classrooms where a significant number of students answered a difficult question correctly, but missed an easy one.

State board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said that analysis is not complete.

In the past, the state has relied on districts to report allegations of misconduct and testing irregularities. According to those reports, there have been 33 cases of possible cheating since 2005.

But the likelihood lawmakers will grant the board the money it’s requesting is unlikely.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed budget does not increase funding for investigations. Two House resolutions passed last month also limit the state’s education budget to $6.5 billion, $523 million less than what the state board is proposing.