SAT cheating targeted in new rules for students

Wendy Carpenter

New security measures to prevent cheating on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams were announced Tuesday, including a requirement that students submit a photo of themselves when they sign up for the tests.
The measures are in response to a massive cheating scandal on Long Island last year, which is why the improved rules were announced at a news conference in Nassau County, New York, CNN reported.

"A photo ID simply won't work to game the system anymore," said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is overseeing the investigation into the Long Island cheating scandal.

Starting in September, students will have to submit photos of themselves when they sign up for the exams. That head shot of the student will be printed on the student's test admission ticket and on the roster given to the proctors of the exams. Before the test, the administrators  will cross reference the submitted photo with a photo ID as well as with the person taking the test. The students' photos will continue to be verified during breaks and when the tests are handed in.

Stringent photo checking is one of the precautions taken by the two companies that administer the tests, the College Board and ACT Inc., who agreed to the new measures.

"I believe these reforms, and many others which are happening behind the scenes, will prevent the kind of cheating that our investigation uncovered and give high schools and colleges the tools they need to identify those who try to cheat," Rice told the Associated Press.

Another change requires students to identify the high school they attend on their application. The students' photo will be attached to their scores, which will be sent to the students' high school for the first time, so school officials can verify the pictures.

Previously, test results have only been sent to the student.

Twenty current or former students from an upscale, high-achieving Long Island suburb have been charged with participating in a scam in which teenagers hired other people ― for as much as $3,500 ― to take the test for them. All 20 have pleaded not guilty.

Five of those arrested in the case have been accused of showing false identification when they showed up for the exam. The AP names one situation where a young man took the test for a teenage girl whose name could have been male or female after allegedly producing ID. To prevent being identified by staff, the hired people also took the tests at high schools other than the ones the students attended, Rice told CNN.

Students will still be able to take tests at high schools other than their own, but showing up at a test site without prior registration for that site―called standby testing―will no longer be permitted.

Rice was joined at the news conference by Kathryn Juric, vice president of SAT at the College Board, and Charles Smith, vice president of the ACT.

"We are confident that the security advancements made today will help maintain an honest testing environment," Juric said.  "It was crucial that these new measures address test-taker impersonation issues."

Test officials said the new security measures will not result in higher prices for the exams. The College Board charges $49 for the SAT while ACT Inc. charges $34 for the basic test, $49.50 if it includes a writing exam.

Almost 3 million students took the SAT worldwide during the 2010-11 school year, while 1.6 million students took the ACT in 2011.

"Millions of college-bound students who take the SAT and ACT each year can have a new confidence that their hard work and preparation will be rewarded and not diminished by cheaters," Rice said.