Source: At least another phony SAT test taker likely

Authorities arrested Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a 2010 graduate Authorities arrested Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a 2010 graduate of Great Neck North, for allegedly using doctored photo identification cards to take the SAT for six students at the school. (Sept. 27, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Authorities who broke up a scheme in which a former Great Neck North High School student allegedly was paid thousands of dollars by students to impersonate them and take the SAT exam are zeroing in on at least one more phony test taker, a source close to the probe said Wednesday.

Authorities also began looking at two other Nassau County schools following a tip they received during the Great Neck North cheating probe, the source said. As at Great Neck North, officials are looking at students who took the college entrance exam at other schools and whose grade-point averages are less impressive than their test scores, the source said.

They are also poring through documents provided to them by ETS, the nonprofit agency that administers the test, the source said.

Authorities Tuesday arrested Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a 2010 graduate of Great Neck North, for allegedly using doctored photo identification cards to take the SAT for six students at the school. Eshaghoff, who pleaded not guilty to criminal impersonation and other charges, was released on bail.

The six students, all from Great Neck, were younger than 19 when the tests took place and prosecutors declined to identify them. They face misdemeanor charges.

Effects of the scam reverberated across Long Island, with some school officials planning tightened security for a Saturday administration of the SAT. And a key state senator is pressing administrators at Princeton, N.J.,-based ETS to come up with their own blueprint for stricter security.

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"This is critically important, because the central issue here is that, if it's happening in Great Neck North, it's happening elsewhere," said State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), chairman of the Senate's higher education committee.

On Wednesday, LaValle said in a phone interview that he had spoken to ETS president Kurt Landgraf and had been promised a set of recommendations by week's end. The senator sponsored a groundbreaking 1979 law allowing students for the first time to obtain copies of SAT questions and scored answer sheets.

ETS invalidates scores of about 1,000 students each year for cheating, according to Tom Ewing, an agency spokesman. The vast majority of those cases involve copying, Ewing added. Other common violations include tampering with test booklets and using cellphones during tests. Impersonation cases are rare, he said.

To strengthen the identification process, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has called for photographing all students taking the SAT. The photos would be sent to the students' schools with their SAT scores.

Officials at ETS and the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, have not responded directly to Rice's recommendations. But they cautioned against added security measures that might overburden students, or increase the $49 cost of the exam.Kathleen Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan-based College Board which contracts with ETS for the exam's administration, pledged yesterdayWednesday that her organization would "follow up" with law enforcement and other local officials involved in the investigation.

"While we are constantly reviewing potential enhancements to SAT security, we also must be mindful that such enhancements not burden test takers with additional costs, infringe on the privacy of test takers, or discourage any student or group of students from taking the SAT and pursuing the goal of higher education," Steinberg said.

In some local districts, administrators already are taking security steps of their own. John Byrne, a Rice spokesman, said his office was encouraged by promises by several area schools to be extra careful in verifying student identifications.

At South Side High School in Rockville Centre, testing coordinator Naomi Bisk said she would remind proctors on Saturday to take extra time in checking IDs, and to send to her any students whose identification seemed questionable. Bisk, who is also a social worker, will be supervising a staff of 21 test proctors this weekend, and expects about 270 teens to show up for the SAT. She views the Great Neck incident as a reality check.

"Obviously, this event heightens our awareness, which is always a good thing, and improves vigilance," she said.

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