SAT cheating fueled by lack of security and few consequences

New York prosecutors are expanding their probe after an Emory University student was charged with using fake IDs (one of them for a girl) to take tests for B- students who thought a 2,100+ SAT score on their transcripts was worth a couple of grand. (Editorial note: Those kids have WAY too much money.)  Click here to read the previous coverage.

Some people think the problem is systemic. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get into top-ranked schools, and the pressures to get high test scores have created a billion-dollar test prep industry and crime stories like this one.

The New York Times has taken a look at some of the problems inherent in the test-taking system, notably a lack of security at testing centers and a lack of consequences for wrongdoers. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, cites confidentiality rules to explain why it doesn’t notify anyone that cheating has occurred.  One thing that leapt out at me when I read the story: The damning evidence in the Great Neck case was the SAT essay, since the handwriting was identical in all six cases of cheating.

This suggests another way to game the system. The ACT, the SAT’s competitor, is writing-optional. Many colleges don’t require the essay, but many–if not the vast majority–of those that do require only one test with an essay, just to have one on file. A student can take the test and write the essay. Then they can have someone else take the test without the essay. In many cases, the college will either “superscore” the two tests, or simply take the best test day score.  The solution is simple: Either require an essay with all ACT tests, or — here’s an idea — go test-optional. (See for details.)

Here’s the crux of the issue, according to the Times:

“As tests have become higher-stakes tests, as the competition between kids for scholarships and college entrance has increased, the likelihood of kids looking for ways to beat the system — to cheat — has increased,” said Henry Grishman, superintendent of Jericho Public Schools on Long Island, which has 3,200 students.

School officials say the testing system has many flaws, most notably the fact that there are no consequences for cheaters. When the Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the test, detects irregularities, it simply notifies the affected students that their scores are being withdrawn.

Neither colleges nor high schools are ever alerted that cheating was suspected. Tom Ewing, an Educational Testing Service spokesman, said that confidentiality laws meant to protect minors prevented his company from disclosing that information. Of 2.25 million SATs taken every year, about 1,000 scores are withdrawn for misbehavior, 99 percent of which are for copying, he said.

Four of the students who said (Sanuel) Eshaghoff took the test for them are in college now; the colleges have not been notified by the testing service of their statements, Ms. Rice said. The other two students are in high school. It is not known whether the school district plans to take action against them.

To read the entire article, click here.


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