Lawmakers hear ideas to stop SAT cheats

High-tech solutions could stop SAT cheating schemes, companies High-tech solutions could stop SAT cheating schemes, companies and experts told a state Senate committee. Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

advertisement | advertise on newsday

ALBANY -- High-tech solutions could stop SAT cheating schemes, companies and experts told a state Senate committee Tuesday.

At a hearing chaired by Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), lawmakers heard proposals for photo ID cards embedded with plant DNA samples and test documents with digital watermarks.

LaValle said he hoped the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, which create and run the SATs would adopt some of the ideas.

He stressed, however, that use of the high-tech measures would be at the discretion of the board and ETS, which administer the SAT.

"I am hoping . . . that we get into identification for the 21st century," LaValle said after the hearing.

"We have technology that can be used, cheaply, accurately, but that's going to be their decision."

The proposals come following a cheating scandal that surfaced last year in Great Neck. Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice filed charges against 20 current and former students for allegedly paying people as much as $3,500 to take the SAT for them.

James Hayward, president and chief executive of Stony Brook-based Applied DNA Sciences, said the company can embed plant DNA into photo ID cards that would be given to students.

The cards could be read by a smartphone to verify their authenticity.

If a counterfeit were suspected, the DNA could be extracted and matched with a matching sample kept on file. It would cost $400 to $500 to check the DNA from a card.

Representatives of Rochester-based Document Security Systems said unique digital watermarks could be embedded in registration papers that students would have to present on test day to verify their identities.

The College Board and ETS were skeptical.

"While many of these solutions have been interesting, none have managed to eliminate impersonations without unduly disrupting test day, raising privacy concerns, or unduly adding to the operational burden of cost of the SAT Program," the companies said in a statement.

Tom Rudin, College Board senior vice president for government relations, said at the hearing that the company was close to unveiling its own solution to deal with the problem of impersonation.

LaValle has drafted legislation to require students to present one photo ID if they take the SAT at their home high school.

Students who take the test at other schools would have to provide two photo IDs or one photo ID plus an affidavit from their high school.

The bill also would create the crime of "forgery of an educational test," a class A misdemeanor, for anyone involved in a testing impersonation scheme -- either by taking the test or hiring someone else to take it.

The measure would create related felony crimes for people older than 21 and repeat offenders.

You also may be interested in: