SAT Cheating Scandal Paves Way for Stricter ID Process

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

SAT Cheating Scandal Paves Way for Stricter ID Process

SAT pic.jpgThe thought of a high school student forking over thousands of dollars to that analytical, lexicon toting student to take the SAT or ACT in his place may seem like a scene straight out of a Lifetime movie – one that ultimately ends with some sad music as the kids are chastised by their parents about right versus wrong. But, this situation was a cold reality last year on Long Island N.Y.

Last year, 20 students from Long Island were slapped with felony charges after accepting as much as $3,600 to take SAT and ACT tests, acts that quickly resulted in one of the most “conspicuous cheating scandals to date,” according to experts. The job was simple. A lackluster, or perhaps lazy, student (let’s call him John) would approach his peer (let’s call him Bob) and ask Bob to sit in his place during the SAT exam. Bob, the SAT stand-in, would move through the test swiftly, giving John a fighting chance of attending his dream school and himself the chance to make some quick cash.

In fact, one SAT stand-in was accused of taking tests for at least 15 people over three years and obtaining scores for them between 2,170 and 2,200 on the SAT (out of 2,400) and as high 33 out of 36 on the ACT (out of 36).

You might ask how this is possible because don’t test proctors require photo IDs at each testing station? While each testing station accepts different items, in the case of the Long Island operation a fake ID seemed to do the trick.

But now, CollegeBoard has set out to change that as students taking college entrance exams this fall will have to submit photo IDs with their applications, a direct response to the 20 current or former high school students that were accused of the cheating scam, a prosecutor and testing official announced today. The new testing requirements rely on technological advances made over the years as students are expected to upload or scan a photograph of themselves when they register for the SAT or ACT. Those unable to upload a photo will be permitted to mail in a photo, which will be scanned by the testing agency. After the photo is received, an admission ticket into the testing site, containing the scanned photo, will be mailed to the student.

If that wasn’t enough, the photo will not only be printed on the admission ticket, but on the test site roster as well so it can be checked against the photo ID a student provides at the test center, according to officials. That photo will be attached to students' scores as they are reported to high schools and colleges.

While I certainly cannot imagine needing such a rigorous application process to take a standardized test, I also took the SAT at a time when smartphones didn’t exist (and many kids didn’t even have a cell phone yet) and the coolest thing on the Internet was AOL, not Wikipedia. And this was the case just nine years ago!

In today’s environment, though, kids are holding their moms’ cell phones before they can even talk, students are learning how to lift papers online as opposed to searching for hours for their older sis’s handwritten paper and the Ti-83 is being used for cheating as opposed to calculus. And if that’s really the case then of course it’s finally time for CollegeBoard to use technology to try to keep students honest.

But as someone who is almost a decade removed from the SAT, I had to defer to my colleague Rich Steeves, who is also a current SAT tutor and practice test proctor, to weigh in on the subject.

“It is part of the challenge of the company responsible for the SAT to keep ahead of cheaters,” he told me. “Sometimes the cheaters use technology to their advantage – like programming formulas into their calculators, trying to sneak their smartphones in, or hiding tiny cameras in their mechanical pencils. As a result, proctors are forced to tighten the reins by not allowing mechanical pencils, phones, tablets or laptops during the exam.”

“But now, ETS seems to be using technology as the solution,” he said. “In the wake of the Long Island cheating scandal, they are getting tougher with photo IDs. Now students must submit a picture ahead of time and that picture will be attached to their admission ticket. Their photo ID better match up to that picture, and their own face should, too, when they start the test and when they come back from the bathroom!”

Well said Rich. And now onto more important matters; I call dibs on the movie rights to the Lifetime movie.

For more on this topic and others, follow me on Twitter.



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