Finally, the security of standardized tests will be held to a high standard.
Six months ago, as many as 50 cheaters were identified, and 20 charged, in a scam that involved talented test-takers earning thousands of dollars from high school students to sit for their SATs and ACTs.
Now Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has won a battle with ACT Inc. and the College Board, which administer the ACT and SAT exams. Both companies resisted security changes initially, citing a lack of evidence that cheating is widespread and the expense of new security measures. After pushing from Rice and outrage from the public, both have agreed to new procedures to make it much harder for students to use test-taking proxies. The security improvements are set to start in fall 2012.
Chief among the impersonators charged was Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a graduate of Great Neck North High School, who accepted big money to take the tests for students, even flying home at least once from Emory University in Atlanta to do it. Eshaghoff, after admitting his crimes, appeared on "60 Minutes," where he both apologized for and justified his actions, claiming he was helping kids secure a brighter future by getting them into better colleges, and no one got hurt. That wasn't the right answer. The kids who deserved to get into college instead of the cheaters got hurt.
The scandal got national publicity and Rice got nationwide results. Registrants will have to submit their photos when they register. These photos will be printed on the test admission tickets, and sent to the students' high schools and colleges with their scores. "Standby," or same-day test registration, will be eliminated. An acknowledgement signed by students taking the exam that cheating or impersonation will be met with criminal charges will be required, and rechecking of identification when students return after breaks and turn in exams will be intensified.
Rice wanted more charges filed, and parents held responsible for their roles as well, but she couldn't make those cases. That's a shame, but she did get something more important: systemic changes that deter cheating, and make it easier to detect.