Immediate calls for tighter test security came Tuesday after the arrests of seven students, past and present, from Great Neck North High School in an SAT cheating scheme.
Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a Massachusetts-based advocacy group that opposes overuse of standardized tests, said the situation points to loopholes in the system. Chief among those, he said, is reliance on temporary proctors, many of them retired schoolteachers, who are often required to check the IDs of a flood of test-takers they do not know.
Some testing experts said it's no surprise that a high-scoring impersonator could slip in and take SAT exams on behalf of other students -- especially with more than 2 million of the tests administered each year.
ETS, the nonprofit that administers the SAT on behalf of the College Board, said Tuesday it has no plan to change security procedures.
"I think the point we have to keep in mind here is that we can't allow the actions of a few to, you know, dictate unnecessary measures for the majority of honest test-takers," ETS spokesman Tom Ewing said.
Nassau County prosecutors charged that six students hired another -- Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a 2010 graduate of Great Neck North -- to take the SAT in their place at a school other than their own. Eshaghoff pleaded not guilty to charges including criminal impersonation.
Prosecutors said the alleged test cheater had racked up six composite SAT scores exceeding 2100 points out of a possible 2400. Only 3.6 percent of those who took the SAT worldwide and graduated from high school last spring scored that high.
Under testing rules, teens may go to any location where the test is being given. Test administrators at ETS, in Princeton, N.J., say flexibility is essential for students, because available testing slots at their own schools may fill up fast.
Test-takers are required to present photo IDs and tickets that they receive when they register for the test with the College Board, the Manhattan-based test sponsor.
Critics of the current system contend it's not difficult to forge identification that will pass muster. And the ability to check IDs carefully can be compromised, they say, when a school is swamped early on a weekend morning with hundreds of test-takers, many of them unfamiliar faces from distant communities.
"Kids all show up at the same time in a huge surge," Schaeffer said. "Obviously, what this student [Eshaghoff] did is grossly cynical . . . But he's just taking advantage of an obvious weakness in the system."
With an SAT testing date approaching on Saturday, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice proposed requiring proctors to photograph students, then send both scores and photos to the students' home schools to confirm identity.
How practical would that be? Ewing, the ETS spokesman, referred that question to the College Board, which did not immediately respond.