By Betsy Hammond

Starting this school year, most states will test students' reading and math skills via computer, setting aside the old practice of using No. 2 pencils and paper tests.

But Oregon and Delaware are the only states that have set rules and regulations designed to ensure test security and prevent cheating on the new breed of online exams, testing giant ACT says in a new report.

That Oregon has sound rules shouldn't be too surprising. The state has given all its state reading and math tests via computer for a decade or more.

The Smarter Balanced tests that Oregon students will take beginning this spring will mark a huge change -- but not because they are given online. That is old hat for Oregon kids.

The sort of test cheating that brought down the superintendent and other high-ranking educators in Atlanta -- teachers and other adults erasing wrong answers and filling in the correct bubbles instead -- can't happen on an online test with no pencils or paper involved.

But computerized testing doesn't eliminate the possibility of cheating, ACT researchers say. It simply changes the way in which adults or students could cheat.

Among the precautions that are needed, ACT say:

--Rules and limits to prevent educators from logging in or students hacking in to see questions in advance

--Protocols that prevent educators from changing students' wrong answers after the fact

--Assurances that prevent students from accessing the Internet or calculators to help them find answers during the test

Oregon's rules are strong, ACT says. But they aren't necessarily air tight.

Suspiciously large one-year gains in test scores at King School in Portland were followed by suspiciously large one-year drops when test-taking was more closely monitored.

Investigators from Education Northwest ruled out most of the legitimate reasons King educators offered for the huge but unsustained spike in scores and were unable to say for sure whether cheating was or was not a factor.

Investigators recommended changes, including telling educators they are expected to follow testing rules and will be disciplined if they don't.

The ACT report, which runs only four pages plus 35 footnotes, is available for you to read in full.

(c)2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)