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Vote on new SAT rules possible next year

A photo of a scantron test sheet.

A photo of a scantron test sheet. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The State Legislature could vote next year on new rules designed to prevent cheating on standardized testing, lawmakers said.

A bill broadly agreed to by the heads of the Senate and Assembly higher education committees would implement new security enhancements in the wake of a cheating scandal on Long Island last year.

The State Senate passed the bill on the final day of the 2012 legislative session last week, but the Assembly didn't take it up.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), the bill's sponsor and chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said he was optimistic it would pass during the next session.

"The number one priority was test security," LaValle said. The rules his bill would put in place "will keep everyone on their toes, ensuring that test security is number one."

The cheating scandal in Great Neck last year involved test takers who allegedly were paid as much as $3,500 to take the SAT for other students. Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice filed charges against 20 current and former students.

The test security enhancements in the legislation include requiring students to present photo identification and a test ticket with their photo printed on it to take the test. Students also would not be able to change the test location once they registered and same-day registrations -- known as "walk-ins" -- would not be permitted. Students would be required to send their test scores to their schools.

LaValle said testing companies -- the College Board, Educational Testing Service and ACT Inc. -- responded to hearings he held this year on security measures that could prevent cheating.

"It was the pressure of the hearings that got them to do appropriate things," he said.

Assemb. Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), chairwoman of the Assembly higher education committee, said the companies responded appropriately.

"No system shaped by people is foolproof, but I think they have dramatically reduced any opportunity [for cheating]. It approaches zero," said Glick, who sponsored the bill in the Assembly.

Ed Colby, spokesman for ACT Inc., said the proposed rules "are consistent with what our changes will be starting sometime next testing year."

Colby said ACT was implementing recommendations made by an ACT task force formed after the cheating scandal.

LaValle's original bill would have created new felony and misdemeanor crimes for people involved in cheating schemes. Those legal penalties were controversial and are not included in the bill that passed the Senate.

"The biggest hurdle on the bill was the penalties," LaValle said. "The committee felt very strongly we did not want to ruin young people's lives over a mistake."

LaValle said he still wanted to push for criminal penalties but in separate legislation.

Glick said the felony and misdemeanor penalties that LaValle first sought were "unnecessarily punitive."

"That was not likely to be something we could pass in our house," Glick said.

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