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March 27, 2012

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, SAT, and ACT Executives Announce National Test Security Overhaul to Prevent Cheating

All test-takers will upload photos at registration, available to high school and college officials

Rice:  These security upgrades will put an end to the cheating epidemic we uncovered and ensure that millions of honest kids get a fair shot in the college admissions process.

Mineola, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen M. Rice was joined today by executives from the College Board and ACT to announce sweeping changes in standardized test security in the wake of a high-stakes, high-dollar cheating scandal uncovered by the District Attorney’s office last fall.  DA Kathleen Rice

“These reforms close a gaping hole in standardized test security that allowed students to cheat and steal admissions offers and scholarship money from kids who played by the rules,” said Rice.  “Millions of college-bound students who take the SAT and ACT each year should have renewed confidence that honest applicants will not take a back seat to cheaters, and that those who cheat will be caught.”

Last year, Rice’s office identified more than 50 students who either impersonated and took the SAT or ACT for someone else, or paid another student to take the test for them.  The investigation led to the arrest of 20 Nassau County teenagers.

Since the scandal broke, Rice has collaborated with the College Board and ACT to close the gap in test security that allowed teenagers to create simple fake IDs, impersonate other students, and take the SAT and ACT in their place.  The comprehensive reforms announced today, which will impose no new cost to students, include the following:

  1. All test registrants will be required to upload a photograph of themselves when they register for the SAT or ACT (Footnote 1).  Students will be able to upload scanned photos, webcam photos, or photos from a smartphone (Footnote 2). The photograph will be printed on their admission ticket, the test site roster, checked against the photo ID they provide at the test center, and the photo will accompany students’ scores as they are reported to high schools and colleges.
  2. Uploaded photos will be retained in a database available to high school and college admissions officials (Footnote 3).
  3. All test registrants will be required to identify their high school during registration (Footnote 4). This will ensure that high school administrators receive students’ scores as well as their uploaded photo.  This back-end check will provide another opportunity for cheaters to be caught. 
  4. All test registrants will provide their date of birth and gender, which will be printed on the test site roster.
  5. Standby test registration in its current form will be eliminated.  All test-takers will be required to completely register, with a photo, and arrive at the designated test center with a proper admission ticket and photo ID.  Students not appearing on the roster or who have an insufficient ID or admission ticket will not be allowed to sit for the exam.
  6. Students will certify their identity in writing at the test center, and acknowledge the possibility of a criminal referral and prosecution for engaging in criminal impersonation.
  7. Proctors will check students’ identification more frequently at test centers. IDs will be checked upon entry to the test center, re-entry to the test room after breaks, and upon collection of answer sheets.
  8. Testing companies will provide a mechanism during registration for parents to receive test-related communications.
  9. Testing companies may conduct “spot checks” with enhanced security at randomly selected locations, or where cheating is suspected.
  10. Proctors will receive additional training to help them identify cheaters and high school and college officials will receive more information about reporting suspected cheating to testing companies.

Testing companies will extensively train proctors regarding these new procedures which will be implemented starting in fall 2012.  They will also provide information to school administrators, college admissions representatives, parents and students (Footnote 5). 

Jon Erickson, President of ACT Education said, “ACT is proud to announce new safeguards that will further ensure the integrity of the testing process and meet students in the tech-savvy world they live in today.  Under our revised test security protocols, test security will be enhanced by the latest web and photography technology, while being reinforced by the people who know the students best -- the teachers and counselors at their high schools.”

Kathryn Juric, Vice President of the College Board for the SAT Program said, “The College Board is steadfastly committed to ensuring the rights of students, the validity and security of the SAT, and the integrity of the test administration process. We are confident that the security enhancements announced today will help maintain an honest and fair testing environment for the millions of students who take the SAT each year as part of the college admission process.  We thank District Attorney Rice for her efforts to protect kids who work hard and play by the rules.”

Assistant District Attorneys Diane Peress, Marshall Trager, Christine Burke, Kristofer Kasnicki, Investigators John Cassino and Jason Jerome, and paralegal Stacey Mussachio handled the investigation for the District Attorney’s office.

FOOTNOTES

1. Those unable to upload a photo will be permitted to mail in a photo, which will be scanned by the testing agency.  Their admission ticket, containing the scanned photo, will be mailed to the student.

2. Specialized software will verify that photos clearly show the student’s face.

3. Appreciating the sensitive nature of this data, the availability of these databases may be delayed until appropriate access/use protocols are in place to ensure the data is made available in a secure and auditable fashion that protects students’ privacy.

4. Test takers who do not attend a high school (home schooled students, those in the military, GED recipients) will follow a slightly different registration procedure.

5. Testing companies will provide additional information on their web sites in the future: http://www.act.org/ and http://www.collegeboard.com