Uniformly pathetic

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New details that surfaced in a “60 Minutes” interview show that the SAT cheating scandal at Great Neck North High School was even worse than we suspected and that the response of the Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the SATs, continues to be shockingly inadequate.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice told the CBS reporter that 50 students in four counties have been implicated in the scandal and that her office continues to investigate the SAT cheating. She said that her office has found that there is a network of “brokers” that connect students with people willing to take the test for them for a price.

“I mean, this is big business,” Rice said. “And it didn’t just start in 2011. This has been going on, this criminal impersonation has been going on for years. Decades. All across the country.”

She said her office found “gaping holes” in the ETS test security.

Nevertheless Kurt Landgraf, president of ETS, insisted in an interview with CBS that the cheating is not a common occurrence. He said that last year ETS found only 150 cases of suspected fraud last year in the entire country.

Wake up and smell the coffee Mr. Landgraf. DA Rice found 16 cases at one high school without the help of ETS. And she found a network of brilliant test takers willing to cheat if the price is right.

She called the security at ETS “uniformly pathetic” and said the cheating is “a systemic problem.” Keep in mind that ETS did not uncover the cheating scandal at Great Neck North. The principal of this school heard “rumors” that the cheating had occurred.

DA Rice did not explain why Eshaghoff, who admits that he took part in a fraud in which he made far more than $20,000, was given a plea deal in which he will perform community service and not serve even one day in prison. Eshaghoff will tutor low-income students in preparation for the SATs.

The scandal shows an urgent need for an overhaul of security of security in the SAT system. SAT should also be looking into terminating its contract with ETS. Until then we recommend the following:

· Students in Nassau County should be strongly encouraged to take the SATS at their own high school. Where exceptions are made, students should be required to produce a letter on their school letterhead explaining that they have been given permission to take the test at another school.

· The county should look into requiring all high school students to have their hands scanned, a computerized technique first used in the Olympics and now used by many government agencies. This is far easier, less invasive and much less expensive than fingerprinting. The scanning is already done in many government offices throughout the country and is 99.9 percent accurate.

· ETS should immediately amend its policy and warn test-takers that colleges receiving a student’s SAT scores will be notified when there is proof that a student cheated in any way.

· DA Rice should make it clear that Sam Eshaghoff is the last person that will get away with community service if they are caught engaging in this level of fraud.

· The district attorney should also be asking the students who paid to have Eshaghoff take the test where they came up with $2,500 plus air fare. If parents knowingly paid for this fraud, they too should face criminal charges and fines.

· And finally, high schools in Nassau County should begin comparing SAT scores with student grades. A student who routinely gets a C-minus math score and then aces the SAT should raise eyebrows.

A Blank Slate Media Editorial

 

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