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SAT Cheating Scandal

Janet Rosier

by Janet Rosier, IECA Member (Connecticut)

As an Independent Educational Consultant, I was both disheartened and unsurprised at the SAT cheating scandal that came to light in September of this year. A college student was employed to take the SAT for six current high school students. According to reports in The New York Times, he was paid between $1,500 and $2,500 by each student.  Having someone take a test for you is not new (see Ted Kennedy and Harvard) but it is still very wrong and the college student faces stiff charges. From what I have read, the high school students may not. That is a pity. I am not acting as a scold here, but I do think that if the only penalty these kids face is to have the scores invalidated, society is doing them a disservice and we practically invite more cheating.

When listening to some news accounts I heard some people mention the intense competition for college as the reason students are driven to do this and how Great Neck is an uber competitive town. Competition for college is big news and often in the news. The New York Times has “The Choice” blog and The Washington Post has “College, Inc.” blog devoted to all things college. (Full disclosure—I have my own blog in the Connecticut Post online, “Next Stop: College”) We all talk about the ins and outs of college admissions, the trends, the myths, the stress and the advice.

Then there are the stories in every national newspaper every year, as sure and predictable as the seasons. In the fall, we have the news stories about Early Decision, complete with the staggering differences in the admissions rates at some colleges and the requisite hand wringing over how this robs seniors of time to make a choice. This is usually followed by the news, as soon as the numbers are in, about how the number of students who applied early went up.  In January, the stories are similar–the highest number of college applications submitted. In April, we read how it was the most competitive year. Ever. Until next year.

But in the news or not, competition is no excuse for cheating. Competition, especially for the “name” schools is tremendous and will remain so. As IECs, we need to be a voice of reason, to assuage fears and to emphasize fit. And part of finding the right fit is understanding that if a college is accepting fewer than 10% of their applications, it is a reach for every student and we need appropriate alternative choices. No cheating necessary.

6 Responses to SAT Cheating Scandal

  1. Thanks for a thoughtful post about the uber competitive atmosphere at so many schools. It’s not just the SAT’s where cheating may happen. I’ve been asked by clients to write letters of recommendation, if it’s okay to fake extracurriculars (“No one will check, right?), and have seen non-clients change their ethnicities to gain an edge in admissions.

    I am glad IECA is here to maintain some sanity in college admissions. I wish all the college admissions stakeholders would.

    • Janet Rosier says:

      Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right and I hear about it from my students. At first, I thought maybe it was exaggerated but I hear enough comments and from students I know to be telling me the truth. Cheating happens–from the ones who struggle and from the ones at the top. One thing I have heard from many kids from many different high schools is the “light” form of cheating–kids who consistently miss school the day of the big exam and get extra time to prepare and also pump other kids for specifics. I was pretty surprised to hear that many teachers do not have ‘make-up exams’ that are different enough from the main test to make this type of cheating less effective. And the “checking the box” cheating I have seen/heard about as well. All we can do is to consistently give the same information to our families–honesty is the best policy.

  2. Janet,

    Thank you for providing a forum to discuss cheating. I was speaking with a parent who was frustrated with students who check the activity boxes. She recommended that students be required to participate no less than 20 hours per semester per activity to have it count. I feel for ethical students with honest participation.
    I also like to remind families that schools with a 10% admission rate are less than likely for all students and the students need to build a strategic list of good fit schools.

    • Janet Rosier says:

      To Burton College Tours,
      I don’t think I agree that there needs to be a minimum number of hours to be able to list an activity–just as long as students list the correct amount that they participate. It is up to the colleges to make their own judgment. However, I can see why this parent is upset– if she thinks that kids are gaming the system, then it makes her feel that others are not getting a fair chance.

  3. Seems to me College Board has to tighten up their security processes. Something like the following would help:
    1. A photo ID is required of all test takers. The ID will be scanned at the test site upon check-in.
    2. Any suspicious IDs plus a random sample of all IDs will be verified with the issuing authorities.
    3. If cheating is detected, both the student and the surrugate will be prosecuted for fraud.

  4. Pingback: Janet Rosier » Cheating Really is Wrong

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