New York SAT cheating scandal urges new rules
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 11:04
The SAT and ACT are extremely stress-inducing for high school juniors and seniors. Teachers, parents and mass media emphasize their crucial effect on students’ futures. In fact, the reputation of standardized testing is so daunting that 20 students from Long Island felt compelled to create a cheating network for the exams. These students hired their high-scoring peers to use fake identification and take the tests in their place. Ironically, the students that feared they were not smart enough to pass the test outsmarted the entire testing system. Until they got caught.
According to the New York Times, the scandal has led to a nation-wide reorganization of the testing system that will go into effect this fall. Test admission tickets will now include the student’s photograph to decrease the likelihood of identity fraud. Test scores will also be automatically sent to the students’ high school for staff to evaluate the validity of each student’s score. Since high school faculty members are more familiar with their students than are the SAT and ACT proctors, they are able to identify the student’s photograph and assess the likelihood that the corresponding score is valid.
However, these changes are also somewhat unethical. If scores will automatically be sent to the students’ high school as a secondary check for their scores, who will determine if the scores are valid? Will this be at the hands of the teachers, principal or administration? Any of these people could identify a student’s picture, but how can they determine if a student fairly achieved their score? Some students perform much better on standardized tests due to excessive studying, prepping or just general good test taking skills. Nobody has the authority to tell a student they didn’t deserve their score. Furthermore, it is impossible to take ethical action against suspicious scores without any evidence. These new rules could lead to severe discrimination against certain students based upon the high school staff’s personal relationship with the student.
The requirement of photo identification on the admission ticket, however, will be extremely helpful to ensure that the testing system is fair for all students. While the SAT and ACT do not determine a student’s intelligence or capability of learning, they are small indicators of how a student compares to other students applying to a certain college. The idea of standardized testing allows students to be compared to any other student within the nation without the variables attached to grade point average (GPA), courses and recommendations. However, if students are cheating, this idea of standardization is completely eliminated and the SAT and ACT fail to achieve their purpose. In fact, they become a false marker of students’ performances.
Not only will less capable students seem superior, but students who have the financial means to pay for other students to take the tests have an advantage. This could cause a bias in the test results towards higher socioeconomic classes. The current testing system needs these changes in order to make the test, and even college acceptances, fair for all students.
Other precautions beneficial to more of the nation’s high school students, however, can be taken. Teachers should be the ones who “decide” if a score is valid because they work the most closely with students. And to eliminate any false accusations, a group of teachers should collaborate. This will be a time consuming and costly process, but it is worth it.
At Wellesley, the Honor Code plays an important role on campus. We know that learning is the most important part of education, and therefore expect the grades we deserve. However, cheating occurs far too often in high schools, and students are often even open about their immoral “methods to succeed” on smaller exams and projects. Though cheating is a common occurrence in high school, by strengthening the security of the SATs and ACTs, these test administrators are setting an example for high schools around the country.