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State lawmakers eye SAT, ACT cheating

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 11:36 am | Updated: 4:03 pm, Thu May 3, 2012.

State lawmakers discussed their role this week in strengthening nationwide legislation to protect against standardized testing fraud, which was introduced last month in the wake of the SAT cheating scandal that involved 15 Great Neck students.

During a Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education hearing in Albany on Tuesday, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) heard testimony on Bill No. 7088, which would increase SAT and ACT security procedures and create criminal penalties for students found to be cheating on the tests.

“It is the collective view that you have to make choices,” said LaValle, who is chairman of the higher education committee. “You have to look at the greater good and the greater good is iron-clad security.” 

Last month, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice joined with officials from the national companies governing the SAT and ACT exams to announce 10 reforms of testing security procedures.

As part of the new security initiative, students will be required to submit a photograph of themselves when registering for SAT or ACT test-taking sessions.

That photo will be entered into a database and will be checked against the student’s photo identification presented at the testing site.

Students will also have to present more information, including their high school registration, date of birth and gender at testing sites to ensure against what Rice last month called the continuation of a “cheating epidemic” nationwide.

“New York has led the way, has provided a national standard,” LaValle said. “Other states will most likely follow suit and look at the penalty provisions.”

If passed, State Sen. Bill No. 7088 would authorize testing agencies to temporarily suspend the SAT or ACT scores of students who are suspected of cheating.

The College Board, which governs the SAT exam, along with ACT Education would also be responsible for reporting the suspected students to their high school or any universities they are applying to attend. 

LaValle’s bill would also requires students to provide identification to their own high schools when taking a standardized test, along with creating criminal penalties for test-takers found to be cheating.

“We’re not doing anything to raise the bar,” LaValle said. “We’ve codified what they want and left open for the future how they can improve it.”

The investigation into cheating on standardized tests began in September when Great Neck North High School graduate Sam Eshaghoff, now a student at Emory University, was arrested for taking the SATs for 12 former classmates.

During a national television interview with the CBS News program “60 Minutes” in January, Eshaghoff said he considered the cheating ring a “successful” business venture when he was paid between $500 and $3,500 to take the SAT for his classmates. He said he escaped prison time by accepting a plea deal to provide SAT tutoring services for low-income students.

In December, Great Neck North graduates Michael Pomerantz and Joshua Chefec were arrested, along with Great Neck South High School alum George Trane and North Shore Hebrew Academy graduate Adam Justin for being paid to take the SAT and ACT tests for local students. As part of the second round of arrests, nine other unidentified students turned themselves in to authorities for paying to have tests taken for them.

The investigation yielded the arrests of 20 Long Island students, 15 of which graduated from or currently attend Great Neck North.

Although Rice previously indicated that up to 40 students could face arrest for standardized test cheating, she said last month that her office’s investigation is now concluded.

LaValle said on Tuesday any legislation passed at the state level would only strengthen the current reforms already put in place by Rice and the national standardized testing companies.

“We kind of validate for the security procedures but leave open for (the) future ... what people might want to do ten years from now five years from now to meet changing times, LaValle said.

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