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SAT, ACT security reforms to be imposed

County DA Rice cites need to seal ‘gaping hole’ in standardized testing procedures

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:09 pm, Thu Apr 5, 2012.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the implementation of nationwide reforms of the SAT and ACT standardized testing security procedures on Tuesday, which were spawned from the cheating scandal that entangled 15 Great Neck high school students last year.

Joined by ACT Education Vice President Charles Smith during a press conference at the district attorney grand jury room, Rice said that “a gaping hole in standardized test security” will be closed when the 10 reforms implemented by ACT Education and the College Board, which facilitates the SATs, go into effect as part of the next round of testing in September.

“These security procedures are going to act as a serious deterrent, not just in a child’s mind, but physically preventing them from doing it,” Rice said. “College Board and SAT, they are putting into place a security procedure that is going to be second to none.”

As part of the new security procedures, Rice said 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, Rice said.

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 called the continuation of a “cheating epidemic” nationwide.

“Like the vast majority of students, ACT understands the importance of honest test scores,” Smith said. “Also, we know the importance of ensuring that students maintain access to the educational opportunities the ACT test provides. Our solution announced today achieves both objectives.”

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.

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 on Monday that her office’s investigation is now concluded.

“Millions of college-bound students who take the SAT and ACT each year should have renewed confidence that honest applicants will not take a back seat to cheaters and those who cheat will be caught,” Rice said.

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.

Eshaghoff, whose mother Janet is president of the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees, said on 60 Minutes that he escaped prison time when he accepted plea deal to tutor low-income students on strategies for taking the SAT as community service.

“The College Board is steadfastly committed to ensuring the rights of students, the validity and the security of the SAT and the integrity of the test administration process,” Kathryn Juric, vice president of the College Board, said in a statement.

“We are confident that the security enhancements announced today will help maintain an honest and fair testing environment,” she added, “for the millions of students who take the SAT each year as part of the college admission process.”

The new reforms will also include enhanced training for test proctors to identify students who may be cheating, along with more stringent identification procedures at testing sites, Rice said.

Rice said testing companies will now also have to provide better communication with parents of students taking the tests. She said the companies will also be responsible for conducting random “spot checks” for cheating at testing sites.

Stand-by registration for SAT and ACT testing will also be eliminated under the new regulations, Rice said.

High Schools across the country, Rice said, will also play vital roles in assuring against test cheating. 

“There is no question that high schools want to be a part of this solution,” she said. “They are in a very unique position to identify whether the person who showed up to take the test is the person the purport to be.”

Efforts to reach Great Neck School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Dolan were unavailing.

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