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DA: Students must upload ID photos to take SAT, ACT

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announces nationwide

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announces nationwide security changes to two of the country's largest standardized tests at a news conference in Mineola. (March 27, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County district attorney and two of the nation's largest standardized testing companies announced Tuesday an agreement on reforms that will strengthen college testing security nationwide -- reforms sparked by an SAT cheating scandal uncovered late last year centering around a former Great Neck North High School student.

All test-takers across the nation will now have to upload photos from a smartphone at registration, and those photos will be kept in a database available to high school and college admissions officials, said District Attorney Kathleen Rice and executives from the ACT and College Board, which creates and runs the SATs.

In addition, all test takers will be required to identify their high school during registration and will be asked to provide their date of birth and gender, which will be printed on the test site roster.

These and a handful of other security measures, slated for implementation starting this fall, will close what Rice, in a prepared statement Tuesday, called "a gaping hole in standardized test security that allowed students to cheat and steal admissions offers and scholarship money from kids who played by the rules."

The SAT cheating scandal was first exposed last September when Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a graduate of Great Neck North, was arrested and charged with accepting as much as $3,600 to take the test for as many as 15 students. In the months that followed, a total of 20 students were charged with cheating, including four with accepting money to take the test for other students. Rice said that since the September arrests, her office has looked at as many as 40 possible cheaters.

Only a fraction of the individuals can be charged, because of issues involving evidence and the statute of limitations.

Eshaghoff, a student at Emory University, told CBS News' "60 Minutes" in a broadcast interview in January that lax security -- students have been asked only to present a school identification card at the testing site -- and poorly trained proctors made his task easy.

Rice, also interviewed on "60 Minutes," said then: "Sam Eshaghoff is a smart kid, but you don't have to be a brainiac to cheat the system the way it exists at the present time," adding: "There's absolutely no security procedures in place."

The requirement that all test registrants identify their high school during registration will "ensure that high school administrators receive students' scores as well as their uploaded photo," according to the statement released by Rice Tuesday.

"This back-end check will provide another opportunity for cheaters to be caught."

Additionally, according to the new requirements, standby test registration in its current form will be eliminated. Instead, all test-takers will be required to completely register, with a photo, and arrive at the designated test center with a proper admission ticket and photo ID. Students not appearing on the roster -- or who have an insufficient ID or admission ticket -- will not be allowed to sit for the exam.

Students will also be asked to certify their identity in writing at the test center, and acknowledge the possibility of a criminal referral and prosecution for engaging in criminal impersonation, according to the new requirements.

Proctors also will check students' identification more frequently at test centers and those identifications will be checked upon entry to the test center, re-entry to the test room after breaks, and upon collection of answer sheets.

Testing companies will provide a mechanism during registration for parents to receive test-related communications.

Those testing companies may conduct "spot checks" with enhanced security at randomly selected locations, or where cheating is suspected.

Proctors will receive additional training to help them identify cheaters and high school and college officials will receive more information about reporting suspected cheating to testing companies.

"Under our revised test security protocols, test security will be enhanced by the latest web and photography technology, while being reinforced by the people who know the students best -- the teachers and counselors at their high schools," Jon Erickson, president of ACT Education, said in a statement.

Kathryn Juric, vice president of the College Board for the SAT Program, said: "The College Board is steadfastly committed to ensuring the rights of students, the validity and security of the SAT, and the integrity of the test administration process. We are confident that the security enhancements announced today will help maintain an honest and fair testing environment for the millions of students who take the SAT each year as part of the college admission process."

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