Mar 28, 2012

ACT and SAT Tighten Rules

Starting next fall, both the ACT and SAT will impose new rules on standardized test-takers. These changes come in the wake of SAT cheating scandals uncovered last year by officials in the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, which involved as many as 50 Long Island high school students.

In a rare show of cooperation, the College Board and the ACT said students will now be required to submit photos with their applications to take the exams. The photos will be uploaded and printed on admissions tickets and on rosters used at testing sites.

During registration, students will also be required to list the high school they attend, which will also receive a copy of the photo submitted by the student. And these photos will also go to all colleges receiving scores.

Testing companies will provide additional training to proctors to help them identify cheaters and may conduct “spot checks” with enhanced security at randomly-selected locations or where cheating may be suspected.

Even parents are being factored in, as a mechanism will be provided during registration for parents to receive test-related communications.

While local reaction to the new security measures is generally positive, some school counselors question the need for colleges to have copies of the photos included with score reports.

“I don’t see the point of providing the picture to the colleges,” said one local private school counselor. “They won’t know what the applicant looks like in most cases, so it doesn’t do anything for security.”

Nearly all colleges have done away with the practice of requesting photographs of students as part of the admissions process out of a concern that bias could creep into consideration of an applicant’s candidacy.

“Everything that I have read and heard indicates that students shouldn’t send in their pictures with college applications, and I think this is sound and should continue,” added the counselor. “Admissions readers could well be swayed unintentionally by a photograph and I don’t think it should be added to the mix.”

The announcement of the new security measures was made yesterday by Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney who brought cases against 20 alleged cheaters. Since uncovering the scandal, Rice has worked with the College Board and ACT to reform test security.

In addition to requiring photos for registration, both the ACT and SAT have agreed that standby test registration in its current form will be eliminated. Students not appearing on the test roster or who have an insufficient ID or admission ticket will not be allowed to sit for an exam.

While still working out logistics including mechanisms for protecting student privacy and accounting for students who are home schooled, in the military or GED recipients, both the ACT and SAT claim that all security enhancements will “impose no new cost to students.”

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