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Cheating as a reaction to college application stress

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Social pressure of kids who took SAT is considerable. The materials below are an illustration of this fact. Like in professional sport sometimes "College application stress" becomes to much to bear... Admissions mania focuses most intensely on what might be called the Gotta-Get-Ins, the colleges with maximum allure.

Unfortunately there are growing numbers of teenagers who think about SAT in terms of their fate, and unreasonably assume that prestigious college acceptance either assures their success or condemns them to failure. Like professional athletes they sometime try to risk too much to successes.  Few people are surprised that professional sports in general is plagued by tales of anabolic steroids and cheating.

If they only know what an messed institutions some prestigious colleges are ;-). Competition to get into elite colleges has increased dramatically in recent years, but that does not means that a person who graduated from a regular state college or who stated with attending even community college and then transferred to four year college is less worthy then those who graduated from Ivy league schools. Sometimes opposite is true and starting your education in community college have a lot of advantages. So take it easy. 

Here is a relevant quote from Who Needs Harvard - The Atlantic (October 2004)

But what if the basis for all this stress and disappointment—the idea that getting into an elite college makes a big difference in life—is wrong? What if it turns out that going to the "highest ranked" school hardly matters at all?

The researchers Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale began investigating this question, and in 1999 produced a study that dropped a bomb on the notion of elite-college attendance as essential to success later in life. Krueger, a Princeton economist, and Dale, affiliated with the Andrew Mellon Foundation, began by comparing students who entered Ivy League and similar schools in 1976 with students who entered less prestigious colleges the same year. They found, for instance, that by 1995 Yale graduates were earning 30 percent more than Tulane graduates, which seemed to support the assumption that attending an elite college smoothes one's path in life.

But maybe the kids who got into Yale were simply more talented or hardworking than those who got into Tulane. To adjust for this, Krueger and Dale studied what happened to students who were accepted at an Ivy or a similar institution, but chose instead to attend a less sexy, "moderately selective" school.

It turned out that such students had, on average, the same income twenty years later as graduates of the elite colleges. Krueger and Dale found that for students bright enough to win admission to a top school, later income "varied little, no matter which type of college they attended." In other words, the student, not the school, was responsible for the success.

 Krueger and Dale found that for students bright enough to win admission to a top school, later income "varied little, no matter which type of college they attended." In other words, the student, not the school, was responsible for the success.

Materials below are collected with a hope to help kids and their parents to fight "college admission stress". You need just take it easy... We need to focus on our kids' overall well-being, not just their success in the eyes of the world. The pressure on smart kids to get into top schools has never been higher. But the real differences between these schools and the next tier down have never been smaller and sometimes can be negative.

Here is an old, but insightful article by Patricia Dalton the on the subject you everybody should read (Washington Post, March 28, 2004):

College application season: The pressure's on
By Patricia Dalton of the Washington Post
Sunday, March 28, 2004


Earlier this month, I received a panicked call from a mother asking whether I could see her son, a high school senior. She said he was irritable and was having trouble getting to sleep. He was refusing to talk about what was on his mind either at home or with his friends. It was the kind of call I have come to expect at this time of year. I am seeing more high school juniors and seniors than ever before who come into my office complaining of symptoms such as stomach pain or inability to focus. The common denominator? College application stress.

I often wonder how the kids I see now will fare during the next phase of their lives. Their reactions to good or bad news are often poorly modulated; many will be either elated or devastated by the fat or thin packages that are beginning to arrive in the mail. And their parents are right to be uneasy. Sure, some kids take it all in stride; some even thrive on the process. But my colleagues and I are finding that there are growing numbers of young people today who think of it in terms of their fate, that their college acceptance either assures them success or condemns them to failure. And they are too young to think in terms of such finality.

Underlying all this apprehension is the parents' conviction that getting into a prestigious college is the ticket to personal fulfillment and financial success -- two measures that are inextricably linked in the minds of many. Baby boomer parents, the most prosperous generation our country has ever seen, are communicating an unprecedented degree of anxiety to their kids about their futures, micromanaging each step forward. Add that to the competitive attitudes of kids' peers, and you can see why places like the Washington area have become pressure cookers for young people today. In offices like mine, therapists are trying to release pressure before the lid bursts right off.

High school counselors as well as independent consultants agree that competition to get into elite colleges has increased dramatically in recent years, and that many state colleges also have become more selective. Many parents could not get into their alma maters today. Sheer numbers are part of the issue: There is a population bulge in this age group; students are also applying to more colleges than they used to, partly because of the ease of the common application and partly to cover more bases. Participation in SAT prep classes is at an all-time high. Collegeconfidential.com, a Web site I was tipped off to by a high school senior, reports that the Ivies reject many applicants today with combined SAT scores of 1550. (Compare that with the stats reported during the last presidential election campaign: Bush's SAT score of 1206 was good enough to get him into Yale; Gore's 1355 took him to Harvard.)

Young people absorb this pressure from the air they breathe. They soak it up at home, at school, in books and magazines. It comes from parents, relatives, teachers and now even from their peers. And it can start at frighteningly young ages, like the 10-year-old girl who worried to me that she was not smart enough to get into a really good college. Then there was the 11-year-old whom I asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She replied in a nanosecond: a law clerk, and then a partner, and then a judge and then a member of the Supreme Court.

Here's the recipe for success these kids have learned: Get high SATs and a high GPA so you can go to this college so you will get this kind of job (and perhaps find a partner with a comparable job) so you will make a lot of money and live happily ever after. The part that's never spoken -- and would be disavowed if put into words -- is that money will make you happy.

These children's parents (and I count myself among them) are the first generation to have grown to adulthood in largely carefree economic times. We have not lived through world wars or a national financial catastrophe. Many of us saw our families go from frugal to fairly prosperous. Lately, however, we've seen great reversals of fortune in industries from automotive to steel to high-tech, local businesses failing to compete with big conglomerates, and blue- as well as white-collar jobs being outsourced overseas. Economic changes have been hard to predict. As one of my friends has asked, "What career do you advise your child to go into today?"

It is certainly possible that today's young people could be the first U.S. generation in which many do not do as well economically as their parents. Adults, on whom children rely to interpret the world, behave as if this would be disastrous. When parents go into overdrive, they often justify their single-mindedness with the argument that an excellent education is what they had -- or, alternatively, did not have -- and therefore want for their children. There are even parents who transmit the message that college acceptance is so crucial that the end matters more than the means. When their children cheat on the SAT and get caught, both children and parents are outraged when there are real and serious consequences.

Sometimes what I hear is almost eerie: Young men and women who seem incapable of separating their own aspirations from those their parents hold for them. There are Americans who no longer make a distinction between needs and wants, even between expectations and entitlements. I have heard young men in my office express anxiety about their earning potential, especially in the eyes of their future mates. And I sometimes have to wonder whether their concern is not neurotic, but rooted in present-day American reality. Perhaps they are perceiving in their contemporaries an inability or unwillingness to adapt to whatever life holds for them. And their future marriages could well be in trouble if they experience the hard side of the wedding vows: poorer instead of richer; bad times not good; sickness rather than health. They have internalized a particularly insidious message -- that unless a person reaches the top of the remuneration hierarchy, life will hardly be worth living.

Parents, meanwhile, are making real sacrifices to try to guarantee the perfect future for their kids. A local college consultant once told me she sees some parents "impoverishing themselves" to pay for expensive colleges. I heard recently that a counselor at a big suburban high school has been making a point of asking parents whether they've put enough money aside for their own retirement -- a common oversight today. Parents like these claim that they just want what's best for their children; they want them to be happy and prosperous. But as one young person said to me during last year's college go-round, "Who are they kidding? My mother is miserable, and my dad works all the time."

Yet the parents still hope for positions of status, power and importance for their children. This is of course a particular issue in Washington, which attracts a population of bright, competitive people who are at least as ambitious for their children as they are for themselves. One young man put it this way: "If there is a ruling class, I intend to be part of it." My son's housemate at Virginia Tech, on the other hand, who moved from Bethesda to the Denver area after eighth grade, told me he was glad to escape the stress he would have experienced here.

Another change comes in the form of increasing pressure from peers. One father whose child had been excited about her early-decision acceptance to an excellent, but not Ivy League, college in November told me that his daughter was having second thoughts, after hearing a friend go on and on about getting into a more "prestigious" school. I have heard high school students make disparaging comments about community college. One counselor described seniors collecting acceptances and then advertising them to their peers "as an ego trip." As he rightly observed, "One kid's safety school is another's first choice."

All this score-keeping takes a toll on camaraderie, which I remember as one of the chief joys of being young. Friendship and even the capacity for friendship suffer when young people are trained to be extremely competitive. The price is high when sympathy and goodwill are drowned out by jockeying to be better, faster, smarter, richer.

There is another price that relentless striving can exact, and this is perhaps the most pernicious one: a joylessness and weariness that shows up in children as young as middle school and can last the rest of their lives. In many of these situations, a disturbing undercurrent develops in the parent-child relationship. Even from very young ages, kids can smell a rat. They know if they are being called upon to realize their parents' ambitions and make them look good regardless of the price.

Whatever happened to young people charting their own courses? Marching to a different drummer? As fellow therapist Neil Schiff said when we were discussing this issue recently, "Whatever happened to ordinary? To just making a way through life?" These days, ordinary is equated with failure. Yet only a small percentile (in SAT terminology) will be the superstars that many parents have trained their kids to expect to be. The majority of us and our children are destined to be ordinary, normal, regular folk. In superstar-think, this means being a loser. Maybe we need to resurrect that long-lost virtue, humility.

At a time in their lives when teenagers need to learn who they are and who they aren't (and hopefully to preserve some vitality to bounce back come what may), large numbers suddenly feel that they may just not be good enough. Many parents had the luxury of almost no college pressure. Some of us went to what kids refer to as "no-name" schools -- I did -- and we're here to tell the tale. Even parents who went to selective schools experienced nothing close to the stress that their children shoulder today. We need to focus on our kids' overall well-being, not just their success in the eyes of the world.

Several months ago, an older woman gave me some words of wisdom that have echoed in my mind ever since. She raised a son and a daughter who are now both grown and gainfully employed. When they were in high school, she said that she had been fretting to her husband about their study habits and college prospects. He said to her, "Dear, just let them be. Let them land where they land." Now there's a concept.

One cannot understand cheating on SAT without understanding the problems with the whole school system. for example here is one review of Cheating Our Kids by Joe Williams:

Williams, education reporter with the New York Daily News, examines how school policies shortchange children in favor of adult interests in jobs, wages, and contracts.

Drawing on a decade of reporting on public schools in New York and Milwaukee, Williams explains how unions, politicians, vendors, and consultants waste and mismanage funds meant to improve education.

He also outlines the role of teachers' unions and political parties in operating school systems and how mindless bureaucracy alienates parents and distracts teachers from their primary roles. He details how unions have prevented parent volunteers from pulling weeds, how a valedictorian who criticized the school in her graduation speech was denied her diploma until she apologized, how a computer company was forced to withdraw hardware donations after bureaucratic rules prevented effective use of the computers.

Williams does salute exceptional educators and parents who make heroic efforts on behalf of children but notes that they are exceptions to the rule. He concludes with reform efforts that have worked, including a Milwaukee program that features limited use of school vouchers and mini school districts.

At the same time one cannot absolutize the problem within the US school system that is relatively well-to-do in comparison with the rest of world. See Education Myths What Special Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools--And Why It Isn't So Jay P. Greene Books

Researcher Greene debunks several purported myths at the heart of assumptions about efforts to reform troubled public schools. He begins with the conventional wisdom that increased spending on schools leads to improved education. Citing national statistics on school spending, Greene asserts that most arguments about inadequate spending are based on anecdotes not facts.

He concludes that even if schools in poor urban areas were provided with more funds, there is no guarantee they would use the funds effectively.

Other myths that he debunks: social problems such as poverty contribute to low academic performance, smaller class sizes produce improvements, certified teachers are more effective, teachers are underpaid, public schools’ performance has declined, private schools are more racially segregated than public schools.

These myths are perpetuated by powerful interest groups, including teachers’ unions, asserts Greene.

Whatever readers may think of Greene’s research, he provides an interesting perspective to the ongoing debates about what ails public schools and how to improve them.

Dr Nikolai Bezroukov


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[Oct 22, 2008] Seven students suspended in SAT cheating By George B. Sánchez, Staff Writer

10/22/2008 | LA Daily News

Seven students were suspended from Granada Hills Charter High School after they stole SAT tests from the school and cheated on the college entrance exam, officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Educational Testing Service, which administers and scores the test, will announce later this week the results of an investigation into the theft and how it might have affected student test scores.

"Five students stole the exam from storage on campus and two students reviewed the exam," said Brian Bauer, executive director of Granada Hills Charter.

On Oct. 6, school officials received an anonymous e-mail from a student saying test-takers cheated on the Oct. 4 SAT held at the school, Bauer said. Within a few days, school officials knew who had stolen the test, which had been delivered and stored on campus before it was administered.

The charter school was a host site for the October SAT, meaning students from other schools took it there alongside Granada Hills Charter students.

"We are looking into the October SAT administration at the school," said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for Educational Testing Service.

Ewing would not reveal what had been discovered but said an announcement and conclusion would likely be made by the end of the week.

Each year, the group does about 1,000 investigations into SAT cheating based on anonymous tips, student tips or concerns from test supervisors, Ewing said. Usually half of all investigations are cleared with no findings of wrongdoing, he said.

About 3 million students take the SAT annually, Ewing said.

Bauer said the incident should not affect public opinion of Granada Hills Charter, which has 4,200 students.

"I don't think it's a reflection of Granada Hills Charter High School or any school where there is a breach like this," he said. "It's a reflection of a handful of students that engage in misconduct."

Bauer would not identify the students or their grade levels.

In nine years at the school, Bauer said, he had never seen anything like it. The incident, he noted, highlights the pressure students are under to attend prestigious colleges.

"This is not the first time a matter like this has happened at a school," he said, "and unfortunately it won't be the last."

george.sanchez@dailynews.com

[July 14, 2008] SAT, ACT cheats face no penalty - Los Angeles Times

If the testing firms suspect fraud, they simply cancel the student's score – but they never tell schools why.

By Carla Rivera
July 14, 2008 in print edition B-1

A group of students at a Los Angeles high school is suspected of cheating on the ACT college entrance exam by paying a former student, who used fraudulent identification, to take the tests. The testing agency recently began investigating the claims, which could result in cancellation of scores provided to colleges.

But those colleges will not be told why the scores are invalid, nor will the students' high school be clued in.

In all likelihood, the students will simply retake the test with few consequences, the result of a little-known policy by the ACT and the College Board, which owns the rival SAT, to keep such irregularities confidential. Each year, millions of stressed-out students take the two tests, hoping a good score will secure them a spot at the nation's top colleges.

But most students know little of what occurs when a score is in dispute. And the policies of the two nonprofit test companies seem to satisfy no one. Some complain that scores are arbitrarily canceled without evidence, while others criticize the companies for giving a free pass to cheaters.

If a score is invalidated, colleges receive a fairly generic alert like this one sent recently to UCLA:

"The ACT cancels scores for a variety of reasons, including illness of the examinee, mis-timing of the test, disturbances or irregularity at the testing site… . It is the ACT policy to treat the ACT's reasoning for canceling a specific score as confidential."

The agencies say their only concern is the integrity of scores, and that it would be impractical to expose student cheaters or try to exact punishment, such as barring them from retaking the test or noting infractions on transcripts.

"We don't tell schools or anyone else; we simply cancel the score," said ACT spokesman Ed Colby. "What we're trying to do is make sure the scores that we send to colleges are valid. It's not our intention to go around punishing students who make mistakes or who've done something they shouldn't have done."

The Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT for the College Board, had a similar response.

"The SAT does play a very important role in the college admissions process, and to prohibit somebody from taking the test … that might hinder their educational future, seems a bit extreme," spokesman Tom Ewing said.

But critics assert that such evasions let student cheaters off the hook.

"Their position is thoroughly unaccountable and promotes unethical conduct," said Michael Josephson, president of the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics. "What they're basically saying is 'Try it. You have nothing to lose.' Why not say to someone who robbed a 7-Eleven, 'Please give back the merchandise or pay for it, but we don't want you to feel bad about stealing.' "

He argued that the stakes are much higher than just invalidated test scores. With students spending hours preparing for the exams and their parents paying for tutoring, the exams remain important factors in college admission, even though some colleges have stopped requiring them.

"If you put up for auction a guaranteed spot into Harvard or UCLA, people would pay tons of money – that's how much they're stealing when they falsely get a place they don't deserve," Josephson said.

According to the two companies, cheating on the tests is relatively rare and prompts only about 2,000 investigations on average out of the more than 3 million tests administered each year. Most cheating accusations come from students or exam proctors and typically involve a student copying from another's exam.

In a recent high-profile case of cheating on Advanced Placement exams at Orange County's Trabuco Hills High School, students came forward to alert test officials to the use of cellphones and other irregularities. Ten students acknowledged cheating, but the school is catching heat for not providing adequate supervision.

And many students and parents are angry with the ETS and College Board for deciding to cancel the scores of all 385 test takers.

Students can cancel SAT or ACT scores for any reason. If the agency challenges a score, students can retake the test – usually without charge – in a more controlled setting, provide information to explain why the original score is accurate, or retake the exam the next time it is given.

Some high schools act on their own to punish students whose scores have been canceled, sometimes with suspensions if they admit to cheating.

But the head of the private Los Angeles school whose students were identified as being under investigation by the ACT said he was unaware of the incident and when he heard about it and contacted the company, officials there would not confirm it. The school is not being identified because there is no proof of wrongdoing by its students.

Colleges also may question students whose scores have been canceled. With 50,000 applications each year, UCLA receives only a handful of SAT or ACT score cancellations, Admissions Director Vu Tran said.

"When we receive notification from the ACT or SAT, the first thing we do is check to see if the student will admit to cheating," he said. "We give the students all due process. But, of course, if the [agency] was specific and spelled it out, it would be a lot easier."

Cheating on high school and college campuses is not uncommon. A survey by the Josephson Institute, for example, found that 60% of high schoolers reported cheating on an exam during the preceding year.

Donald L. McCabe, a Rutgers University professor who has studied cheating, said college-bound students perceive that because of the use of proctors and seating arrangements, fraud on the SAT is difficult – although many say they would try if they thought they could get away with it.

McCabe said the test companies may be reluctant to take action against cheaters because they fear being sued. But Ewing said that was not so.

"We could stand behind whatever investigative results we come up with," he said. "We've had instances of students taking us to court, and we have prevailed. For us, it's all about the confidentiality."

Students taking the two tests sign confidentiality agreements and promise not to misbehave, but most are unaware of the testing agencies' policies – and most professional tutors are not eager to let them know.

"I've known about this for 25 years but did not believe it served anybody's interest to be told there were no consequences for cheating on tests," said Paul Kanarek, president of the Princeton Review of Southern California. "It's not the right ethical message to send."

For some critics, the issue is not cheating but the imbalance of power between the test agencies and students. Students must put in time and effort to retake tests and those who are cleared of cheating may nevertheless remain suspect.

"The test giver investigates, prosecutes, judges and acts as jury and can withhold test scores," said Robert Schaeffer, public education director at FairTest, a Massachusetts-based group that promotes fair and open testing. "There's no way to be sure who's right."

Cheat on the SAT No big deal

Testing companies that administer the SAT and ACT college entrance exams like to talk about how vigilant they are about security. If that's so, then the must be REALLY tough on kids who are caught cheating on the exam.

So of course they notify the colleges the cheaters apply to and the high schools they attend, right? And they ban them from every taking another entrance test, I'm sure. They probably even try to prosecute the kids, don't they?

Nope.

Here's what happens to the cheaters: Nothing.

That's what the L.A. Times reported, that the punishment for cheating is an invalidated score and an opportunity to take the exam again.

Wow. That will show 'em!

Why don't the companies take harsher action? Well, their higher priority is keeping test security breaches confidential. It certainly doesn't serve a testing company for people to learn there is significant cheating going on on the SAT or the ACT.

So they keep it quiet.

What can be done about this? Well, colleges and states could start requiring more disclosure about cheating on these and other standardized tests.

What do you think? Should test companies be required to take more action against cheaters?

By Terri

July 16, 2008 10:21 PM | Link to this

Mary - "many" people in eduation are not against standardized testing. We just want them to be used the way they are intended - to allow teachers to assess where students are in the beginning and then assess their growth at the end. (value-added)We do not want ONE test to determine anyone's fate - the OGT. At the very least I would like to actually have the entire year to present material to my 10th graders not 3/4 of the year as I currently do. BTW - gateway test for National Merit is the PSAT given to Juniors.

By Mary

July 16, 2008 5:26 PM | Link to this

Terri, I don't know what "hypothesis" you think is false. The book, "Cheating our kids- how politics and greed ruin education" pointed out studies that show that people, in general, who enter the education field have lower standardized test scores than college students entering other fields. There are, of course, many exceptions, such as yourself, as well as many exceptions among students (many gifted students in 6th grade have similar SAT scores to yours and are not allowed to test for National Merit). It is interesting to note how "against standardized tests" many people in the education field are. Could it be in general, they have problems with standardized tests and mental abilities and to cope, try to put down standardized tests and the intelligence of students with higher scores and mental abilities. That has been my experience as a parent. Of course, there are some intelligent teachers who get it and support these students, but not very many. Mrs K, I am almost twice your age. My oldest is almost your age. You did not mention your field or level at Wright State, but I know of classes at Wright State and many other state universities in the hundreds. The main point of the book "Beer and Circus - how big time sports is crippling undergraduate education" is that expenditures on sports, as at Wright State which subsidizes its athletics department in the $ millions each year, causes an increase in class sizes and lack of funds for academic needs. On another education related "blog" I am on, there is a recent entry about the problems several Ivy League colleges have been contending with their grad student taught writing classes and what they have had to do to try and overhaul their curriculum. One of the schools mentioned is Princeton. A former president of Princeton co-wrote the book "The Game of Life" which essentially validated the same issues in "Beer and Circus".

By Mary

July 15, 2008 8:09 AM | Link to this

"required", no. Just exercise some integrity and ethics and do it without being "required". I think a lot of the security issues might depend on the local hires administering the tests. It appears as if all any one cares about anymore is collecting the paycheck or keeping the revenue stream going. Integrity of processes and character or ethics are not even on the radar screen. This type of malaise will topple us all and bite us all on the butt. I recall an article about how people in med school see no problem with cheating. There appears to be a lack of integrity and ethics in all our bureaucratic systems, not just testing. There are differences between capitalism, paying the bills and rampant greed and disorder. We are in the rampant greed and disorder phase. Conspiracy books imply some want greed and disorder and see ways to profit from the chaos and disintegration of our culture. I am beginning to think they are spot on.

[Apr 29, 2008] The Burden of the College Admissions Process - Well Blog -

NYTimes.com

Robin Karlin, 17, a senior at Oshkosh West High School in Wisconsin, will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an astrophysics and Spanish double major after receiving rejections from Stanford, Harvard and Yale.

Around the application deadline you're studying for finals, and it's your senior year. You already have a lot of classes and you have to write essays and you're already stressed out thinking "what if they don't want me?'' And you worry what if you don't get into any school at all? I'm not from a big city. We have pretty good schools, but I think in a bigger city with more people you have more perspective on where you stand in the nation. I'm not really sure how good I am.

I wasn't so terribly disappointed. There is the money aspect, and Madison was offering me a good scholarship. I got that offer before the rejection letters so I was already thinking I should go there anyway.

Sam Werner, 18, of Norwalk, Conn., achieved a perfect score on his SAT test but was not accepted into his top picks, Stanford or Princeton. He's now a freshman at Notre Dame.

Everyone I had talked to, once they heard "perfect SAT," they said, "You can get in anywhere." That was the hardest part, having everyone tell me I would and then not getting in. It was a rough few days. The rejection letters and my parents both kept telling me it's not a case of me not being good enough, but a case of too many qualified applicants. But it's really hard not to feel like you got rejected….

That was really the first major setback in my life I can remember. I felt like it was so out of my hands. Once I started getting mail from Notre Dame about rooming and stuff, that's when I started coming around and thinking, "I'm going to a really awesome school."

You hear the phrase "Oh, it will look good on a college application" so much in high school that people end up doing stuff just so it looks good for college. My theory at the time was, "I'm just going to be myself and if I don't get into the school, then I don't get into the school." It's hard to remember that when you're getting rejected, but I know now I didn't get in there for a reason, and I came here for a reason. I love it here.

To read the full Well column, click here.

[Feb 22, 2008] SAT Prep Provider Sued By College Board

February 22, 2008

Things have been heating up in the test-prep industry as more and more frenzied parents pay providers to help their kids boost their SAT or ACT scores.

Yesterday it was announced that the College Board, the not-for-profit (but very profitable) organization responsible for administering the SAT (among other tests) is suing a Texas test-prep company for using "stolen" PSAT questions.

Karen Dillard, owner of the Dallas-area test-prep company, claims that the College Board is bullying her in an effort to put her out of business. Dillard's company charges over $2,000 for her test-prep package.

There's no question that the College Board has a sweet deal: providing tests and test-prep materials to thousands of anxious college-bound students in an era of increasing competition and soaring college expenses. They have every right to protect their product. And though the College Board isn't directly responsible for the burgeoning college prep industry, it's certainly played a pivotal role in fanning the flames that have led to the test-prep wildfire that is raging throughout the country.

It will be interesting to watch this case over the next few months.

[May 30, 2007] [Student Corner] 'Hagwon' Blamed for Cancelled SAT

By Park Sun-jong

A few months ago, I had my SAT Reasoning Test score canceled. If I recall correctly, I did not violate any rules set by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the test, such as sharing the test questions with someone else.

It was part of a complete cancellation of the SAT Reasoning Tests administered on Jan. 27. The New York Times and CNN reported in early February that there was a ``security breach'' of the SAT Reasoning Test in January.

According to a news report published in the Times, ``At least one student who took the exam Saturday had access to the questions ahead of time.'' In light of the emphasis on fair competition the ETS sets on SATs, this was indeed a serious security breach.

The pivotal problem of the test was that it recycled almost all questions previously administered in the United States in December 2005. Considering that many SAT hakwons in Korea have access to previously administered SAT Tests and many test-takers attend hakwons, the careless recycling of test questions by the ETS was the bedrock of the security breach.

But the ETS has yet to realize the larger picture _ students in America take the SAT one day after those in Korea do and once hakwons realized that the SAT in January was a near replica of one previously administered, they quickly sent answers to students in America who had attended hakwons.

Indeed, on a Web site frequently visited by those wishing to study abroad in America, the document containing answers to the SAT in January that was sent to students in America was posted.

The document was compiled by a hakwon teacher and he encouraged his students to carefully memorize the answers before taking the test. In other words, students in America who had access to the document before taking the test could have gotten perfect scores. But sadly, only the test scores of those who took the SAT in Korea were canceled.

But like an abstract painting, the scene of test taking in Korea is distorted to the point where the true purpose of standardized testing has become null and void.

ETS said in its latest report that the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy (KMLA) is among the world's top high schools outside the United States according to its students' performance on seven advanced placement subjects.

According to a Chosun Ilbo report published on Feb. 21, some of the students who took the test there said that they saw many KMLA students cheat in the bathroom, including using electronic dictionaries and sharing questions which are forbidden by the ETS.

The scope of the cheating scheme is not limited to KMLA. In other places where I took the SAT, I saw students rely on other prohibited measures to increase their score. As a fellow student preparing to study abroad, I understand their obsession with numerical scores. But as a Korean, I see a bigger problem.

What was lost in the cancellation of the SAT score on January was not only our efforts but also the credibility of Korean students as a whole. Indeed, never before has the ETS cancelled the scores of all test takers from a country.

Already, the news of the cancellation has seeped through many international sites such as collegeconfidential.com. Many international netizens have generalized South Korean students as test-taking ``machines'' who know no ethics.

How will we be able to present ourselves in the U.S.? How will professors view our work, if Korean students continue to cheat on the SAT? We should not risk our image for the sake of a boost in a few points on the SAT. An old Korean proverb says that one mudfish contaminates the whole pond.

Whether or not you are innocent, the ETS does not seem to care. As a senior who will be applying to colleges in a few months, I am short of time. And the cancellation of the SAT in January is outrageous and nerve wracking. Nevertheless, we need to look ahead. This should not happen again.

p890521@hanmail.net

[May 19, 2006] He'll Cheat For You

May 19, 2006 | suite101.com

He doesn't have to advertise. The word just gets around from "satisfied" customers.

Have you been a slacker in high school but your parents want you to attend an Ivy league School? No problem. Call "Bob." If you give "Bob" your ID and he makes a fake one with your permission, "Bob" didn't break any law.

A Custom Fit

Do you want a particular score? No problem. "Bob" is such a pro at taking tests that you can even set a target score. The most requested scores run between 1100-1200. "Bob" usually comes pretty close but sometimes gets too many answers correct and the score is too high. Sigh. There are pros and cons to every "under the table" business venture.

The Deluxe Package

Unfortunately, "Bob" must charge extra for giving answers to your friend taking the test elsewhere using a cell phone while he is taking the test himself. Cell phones are not allowed during SAT tests, but somehow using silent, text messaging and sitting behind someone large does allow "Bob" to get by with it.

Is This Legal?

Sure is. You can't be charged with a forgery unless someone presses charges. The student or parents of the student that hired "Bob" are certainly not going to complain. "Bob" didn't steal the ID, either. It was given to him. So, where is the crime?

The Clients

"Bob" states that his clients are lazy, upper-middle class kids with professional parents that have not applied themselves in high school.

He does offer some advise, "Most people who are on the hunt for test-takers spend more time figuring out how to cheat than they would if they just studied for the test." Thanks for the advise, "Bob."

Related articles: SAT Fatigue?, The SAT and Admissions by Lynn Byrne, SAT Scores Drop, Cell Phones in the Classroom: Yes or No?, ACT Scores Falling, Reading Scores Down - Again

[Apr 5, 2006] Cheating on the SAT

Progressive U

Prior to taking the SAT, I was astounded to discover a statistic showing over one third of all SAT test takers to have cheated on the SAT, one way or another. Some of the techniques include but are not limited to: going back to a section after completing the assigned section and changing answers after time has been called. The sheer number of people who cheated (or at least admitted to cheating) almost threw me off my feet. I couldn't believe it. Maybe I'm just really really stupid and naive to believe that people would have more academic integrity. Okay, not maybe, I am really really stupid and naive to believe it. But what's worst is that one of the girls I know at school who was taking the SAT in the same room that I was in got called out by the proctor and was told to stay after the SAT was over to "talk". Knowing the girl and her school record and from the tone of the proctor's voice, I could bet my gold that she was cheating.

Normally I get angry at those kids who cheat on tests, quizzes, essays, projects, etc. because I feel that when they do so it is out of disregard and neglect of everyone else's hard work and effort, as well as the teacher's trust and intention. But I was actually rather infuriated at the thought of this girl cheating on the SAT. It's a high-stakes test for everyone, but the only way everyone can benefit from it is if everyone does his or her best within the rules, because one person's unfair advantage artificially dilutes the scores of everyone else.

I do find some of the SAT rules superfluous and catty, like the "cursive requirement" for writing the "I won't tell anyone about what just happened" promise, and the whole illegality of discussing problems with your friends and teachers (afterall, doesn't that increase our education, and isn't education what the ETS is all about?), and I would rather have the rules be that I can do whatever section of the SAT I want for as long as I want.

College application season: The pressure's on

College application season: The pressure's on
By Patricia Dalton of the Washington Post
Sunday, March 28, 2004

Earlier this month, I received a panicked call from a mother asking whether I could see her son, a high school senior. She said he was irritable and was having trouble getting to sleep. He was refusing to talk about what was on his mind either at home or with his friends. It was the kind of call I have come to expect at this time of year. I am seeing more high school juniors and seniors than ever before who come into my office complaining of symptoms such as stomach pain or inability to focus. The common denominator? College application stress.

I often wonder how the kids I see now will fare during the next phase of their lives. Their reactions to good or bad news are often poorly modulated; many will be either elated or devastated by the fat or thin packages that are beginning to arrive in the mail. And their parents are right to be uneasy. Sure, some kids take it all in stride; some even thrive on the process. But my colleagues and I are finding that there are growing numbers of young people today who think of it in terms of their fate, that their college acceptance either assures them success or condemns them to failure. And they are too young to think in terms of such finality.

Underlying all this apprehension is the parents' conviction that getting into a prestigious college is the ticket to personal fulfillment and financial success -- two measures that are inextricably linked in the minds of many. Baby boomer parents, the most prosperous generation our country has ever seen, are communicating an unprecedented degree of anxiety to their kids about their futures, micromanaging each step forward. Add that to the competitive attitudes of kids' peers, and you can see why places like the Washington area have become pressure cookers for young people today. In offices like mine, therapists are trying to release pressure before the lid bursts right off.

High school counselors as well as independent consultants agree that competition to get into elite colleges has increased dramatically in recent years, and that many state colleges also have become more selective. Many parents could not get into their alma maters today. Sheer numbers are part of the issue: There is a population bulge in this age group; students are also applying to more colleges than they used to, partly because of the ease of the common application and partly to cover more bases. Participation in SAT prep classes is at an all-time high. Collegeconfidential.com, a Web site I was tipped off to by a high school senior, reports that the Ivies reject many applicants today with combined SAT scores of 1550. (Compare that with the stats reported during the last presidential election campaign: Bush's SAT score of 1206 was good enough to get him into Yale; Gore's 1355 took him to Harvard.)

Young people absorb this pressure from the air they breathe. They soak it up at home, at school, in books and magazines. It comes from parents, relatives, teachers and now even from their peers. And it can start at frighteningly young ages, like the 10-year-old girl who worried to me that she was not smart enough to get into a really good college. Then there was the 11-year-old whom I asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She replied in a nanosecond: a law clerk, and then a partner, and then a judge and then a member of the Supreme Court.

Here's the recipe for success these kids have learned: Get high SATs and a high GPA so you can go to this college so you will get this kind of job (and perhaps find a partner with a comparable job) so you will make a lot of money and live happily ever after. The part that's never spoken -- and would be disavowed if put into words -- is that money will make you happy.
These children's parents (and I count myself among them) are the first generation to have grown to adulthood in largely carefree economic times. We have not lived through world wars or a national financial catastrophe. Many of us saw our families go from frugal to fairly prosperous. Lately, however, we've seen great reversals of fortune in industries from automotive to steel to high-tech, local businesses failing to compete with big conglomerates, and blue- as well as white-collar jobs being outsourced overseas. Economic changes have been hard to predict. As one of my friends has asked, "What career do you advise your child to go into today?"

It is certainly possible that today's young people could be the first U.S. generation in which many do not do as well economically as their parents. Adults, on whom children rely to interpret the world, behave as if this would be disastrous. When parents go into overdrive, they often justify their single-mindedness with the argument that an excellent education is what they had -- or, alternatively, did not have -- and therefore want for their children. There are even parents who transmit the message that college acceptance is so crucial that the end matters more than the means. When their children cheat on the SAT and get caught, both children and parents are outraged when there are real and serious consequences.

Sometimes what I hear is almost eerie: Young men and women who seem incapable of separating their own aspirations from those their parents hold for them. There are Americans who no longer make a distinction between needs and wants, even between expectations and entitlements. I have heard young men in my office express anxiety about their earning potential, especially in the eyes of their future mates. And I sometimes have to wonder whether their concern is not neurotic, but rooted in present-day American reality. Perhaps they are perceiving in their contemporaries an inability or unwillingness to adapt to whatever life holds for them. And their future marriages could well be in trouble if they experience the hard side of the wedding vows: poorer instead of richer; bad times not good; sickness rather than health. They have internalized a particularly insidious message -- that unless a person reaches the top of the remuneration hierarchy, life will hardly be worth living.

Parents, meanwhile, are making real sacrifices to try to guarantee the perfect future for their kids. A local college consultant once told me she sees some parents "impoverishing themselves" to pay for expensive colleges. I heard recently that a counselor at a big suburban high school has been making a point of asking parents whether they've put enough money aside for their own retirement -- a common oversight today. Parents like these claim that they just want what's best for their children; they want them to be happy and prosperous. But as one young person said to me during last year's college go-round, "Who are they kidding? My mother is miserable, and my dad works all the time."

Yet the parents still hope for positions of status, power and importance for their children. This is of course a particular issue in Washington, which attracts a population of bright, competitive people who are at least as ambitious for their children as they are for themselves. One young man put it this way: "If there is a ruling class, I intend to be part of it." My son's housemate at Virginia Tech, on the other hand, who moved from Bethesda to the Denver area after eighth grade, told me he was glad to escape the stress he would have experienced here.

Another change comes in the form of increasing pressure from peers. One father whose child had been excited about her early-decision acceptance to an excellent, but not Ivy League, college in November told me that his daughter was having second thoughts, after hearing a friend go on and on about getting into a more "prestigious" school. I have heard high school students make disparaging comments about community college. One counselor described seniors collecting acceptances and then advertising them to their peers "as an ego trip." As he rightly observed, "One kid's safety school is another's first choice."
All this score-keeping takes a toll on camaraderie, which I remember as one of the chief joys of being young. Friendship and even the capacity for friendship suffer when young people are trained to be extremely competitive. The price is high when sympathy and goodwill are drowned out by jockeying to be better, faster, smarter, richer.

There is another price that relentless striving can exact, and this is perhaps the most pernicious one: a joylessness and weariness that shows up in children as young as middle school and can last the rest of their lives. In many of these situations, a disturbing undercurrent develops in the parent-child relationship. Even from very young ages, kids can smell a rat. They know if they are being called upon to realize their parents' ambitions and make them look good regardless of the price.

Whatever happened to young people charting their own courses? Marching to a different drummer? As fellow therapist Neil Schiff said when we were discussing this issue recently, "Whatever happened to ordinary? To just making a way through life?" These days, ordinary is equated with failure. Yet only a small percentile (in SAT terminology) will be the superstars that many parents have trained their kids to expect to be. The majority of us and our children are destined to be ordinary, normal, regular folk. In superstar-think, this means being a loser. Maybe we need to resurrect that long-lost virtue, humility.

At a time in their lives when teenagers need to learn who they are and who they aren't (and hopefully to preserve some vitality to bounce back come what may), large numbers suddenly feel that they may just not be good enough. Many parents had the luxury of almost no college pressure. Some of us went to what kids refer to as "no-name" schools -- I did -- and we're here to tell the tale. Even parents who went to selective schools experienced nothing close to the stress that their children shoulder today. We need to focus on our kids' overall well-being, not just their success in the eyes of the world.

Several months ago, an older woman gave me some words of wisdom that have echoed in my mind ever since. She raised a son and a daughter who are now both grown and gainfully employed. When they were in high school, she said that she had been fretting to her husband about their study habits and college prospects. He said to her, "Dear, just let them be. Let them land where they land." Now there's a concept.

[Jan 20, 2004] New Jersey student's SAT scores frozen for suspicion of cheating - College News

MONTVALE, N.J. _ A high school student whose SAT scores were frozen after allegations of cheating has decided to push ahead with her college applications anyway.

Kristin Soriano, 17, a student at Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, attributed a 350-point jump in her score to extensive tutoring.

But Educational Testing Service, the Princeton company that administers the test, ruled that the score reflected that she had cheated.

An ETS panel rejected Soriano's appeal of the ruling and given the choice of retaking the test, initiating a lengthy arbitration process or sending the ruling and her appeal to colleges. She chose the latter.

She is applying to SUNY-Albany, Stony Brook and Iona in New York and Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac in Connecticut.

Soriano's case highlights the process used by ETS to guard against cheating. A little-known ETS rule calls for an automatic investigation if a student's combined math and verbal score improves by 350 points or more from one test to the next.

ETS says statistical models show it is highly unusual for students to improve their score by that amount without cheating.

``If you have a combined score increase (of 350 points), it will at least cause us to take a look,'' ETS spokesman Tom Ewing told The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark.

In Soriano's case, the testing service compared her answers with those of the students sitting near her and concluded Soriano's incorrect answers were similar enough to another student's to warrant a charge of cheating.

Soriano said she was ill and under medication when she scored 750 on the test last spring at Pascack Valley High School. Her father, Michael, said she studied with a tutor two nights a week until the night before the second test in October.

When other students received their results in the mail, Soriano was told her score of 1,100 had been frozen.

Soriano, who has a 3.0 grade-point average, was devastated by the news.

``I worked so hard to pull my score up. And now I feel like, why work hard? It doesn't do anything. They just accuse me of cheating,'' she said.

Ewing said cheating cases are rare and that very few students are accused and even fewer are found guilty.

One high-profile case in New Jersey occurred last year at Dwight-Englewood School when one student was found to have taken the test for another student, with a third involved in setting up the switch.

[Feb 14, 2001] Student Accused of SAT Scam

On: Wednesday, February 14, 2001 05:09:19 PM

Blake Blevins wrote:

"Cheaters never win", is something that we all have heard. Laewernce Adler paid David Farmer to take his college entrance exam for him. At the end of the ordeal, Adler spent 10 days in jail and did some community service. However, he can still apply to a college of his choice. So, did this cheater "win" or loose is the question that is on my mind. Did the judge make an appropirate rulin on the case? Should Farmer recieve any kind of punishment for his paticipation in the scandal? If the ETS was not tipped off, would we even be talking about this at all?

Taking The SAT by David Owen

Story in .rtf

It was already evening when I suddenly remembered. I rummaged through my desk and then emptied a kitchen drawer, turning up several ambiguous candidates. Is a Woodclinched Eberhard-Faber Blackwing the same as a No. 2? My wife buys the pencils in our household, and she favors exotic leads. Suddenly gripped by an old but familiar fear, I hurried to the corner drugstore and bought a package of Harvard Squares.

College-bound high school students may have guessed the reason for my moment of panic: I had signed up to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) the following morning, and a No. 2 is the only pencil whose mark is legible to the machines that score it. The instruction sheet I had received with my admission ticket advised me to bring two No. 2's to the test. I sharpened four and put them beside my wallet on the bureau.

The SAT–published by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) under contract with the College Entrance Examination Board–is the most important college admissions test in the United States. More than 1.2 million high school students took it in 1983. 1 decided to take it again, a decade after I had taken it the first time, in order to learn first-hand how this test, which can determine the educational futures of the students who take it, is administered.

Early the next morning I left home without breakfast and joined two or three hundred teenagers on the sidewalk in front of Julia Richman High School on Manhattan's upper east side. The school is an ironic symbol of American social progress: thirty years after Brown v. Board of Education, Richman's students commute daily from Harlem to attend a black high school in a white neighborhood. But on days when the College Boards are given, white faces outnumber black ones. The sons and daughters of the privileged, who now attend private schools with names like Dalton, Trinity, and Collegiate, temporarily reclaim the building they have otherwise abandoned.

It was a frigid Saturday in December, but we weren't allowed to wait inside the school. Shadowy figures occasionally peered out through the grated windows. About a dozen of the sort of students who volunteer to clean erasers after class were clustered around the locked front door, perhaps hoping to secure some small advantage on the test by thawing out first. Some students thumbed through test review books. I patted my pencils to make sure they were still in my pocket. And then–fifteen minutes after the announced starting time–the door creaked open and we filed inside.

No Admittance

"You will not be admitted to the test center without positive ID," say the instructions ETS and the College Board give to students when they sign up to take the SAT. Test scores would be meaningless if college admissions officers couldn't be certain they had been obtained under secure conditions. Students who lack driver's licenses, passports, school identification cards, or other official documents with photographs attached to them are told to provide "a brief physical description of yourself on school stationary. It must be signed by you in the presence of your school principal or guidance counselor, who must also sign it." Social Security cards, birth certificates, and parents' driver's licenses "are not acceptable." In order to make certain all these instructions sink in, ETS repeats them when it sends students their test center admission tickets.

But on the morning I took the SAT, no one asked me for my identification. Indeed, when I took out my wallet to get my driver's license, the proctor told me to put it away. She told all the students to put their identification away. "I just need to see your tickets," she said. Proctors aren't required to check the identification of students they know personally, but this woman couldn't have known more than a few of the students in the room, because they were from different schools. She certainly didn't know me. Nor did she seem to notice that I was ten years older than any of the other test-takers. I certainly would have asked for my ID.

Our proctor, who was wearing a jaunty scarf made of blue plastic netting, talked to herself as she waited for students to arrive. She told us she was going to give us our test booklets ahead of time but asked that we not open them "in case Dennis walks in." Of course, several students opened their booklets immediately. Someone asked if we were allowed to use the booklets as scratch paper. The proctor said she didn't know. It seemed to her that people had been allowed to last year, but that no one had said anything about it this year. We could probably "use the back," she said.

This is incorrect. Students can use any part of the booklet as scratch paper. The are supposed to use the booklets as scratch paper. Our proctor would have realized this if she had looked at her instruction book, but she never did. Proctors are required to read several pages of fairly complicated instructions aloud to students, asking them periodically whether they understand. But our proctor didn't read a word.

Shortly after she gave us our booklets, she told us to begin. We would have thirty minutes to complete the first section, she said, starting now. Then, after we had started, she told us to be certain to fill in the identifying information on both sides of the answer sheet and the back of the test booklet. Students have to provide quite a lot of information: name, address, birth date, two signatures, sex, test form number, registration number, form code, test book serial number, test site location, test site code. Students fill in much of this information by writing it in little squares and then darkening boxes on the answer sheet that correspond to individual letters and numbers. Doing all this takes a long time. Students are supposed to be allowed to do it before the test begins, with the proctor leading them through every step of the way and checking to make certain the test and booklet numbers are entered correctly. The students in my room were cheated out of perhaps one-third of the time allowed for the first section of the test. Even students who ignored the proctor and began working were penalized, because the proctor talked continually. One thing she talked about was the serial number: she wasn't sure if there was one, or, if there was, where in the world it might be.

There was no clock in our room, so the proctor periodically marked the time on the blackboard. Her timing was very approximate. I checked her with my watch. She shaved off a few minutes on some sections, added a few minutes on others. My desk was so covered with graffiti that the ink from the tabletop sometimes rubbed off on my answer sheet. Erasing these marks was difficult. All the desktops had been carved and gouged. It was possible to tear an answer sheet simply by marking answers.

Proctors are explicitly required to give students a five-to-ten minute break at the end of each hour of testing time. Our proctor gave us only one break, very late in the test, and she gave it to us only because a student complained. Several students continued working on their test during the break. This, of course, is against the rules. It is cheating. The proctor said nothing, even though she was clearly able to see what was going on. Other students worked on sections other than the one they were supposed to be working on. This, too, is cheating.

Students who finished the last section early were allowed to leave before the end of the test. This is absolutely forbidden. It's, also extremely distracting to the students still working. The students who left early rustled their coats and papers and talked in normal voices. The proctor talked, too. She stood in the doorway and talked to a woman in the hall. I was working on the last few problems in my second math section at the time. Every time the proctor or one of the students started talking, I lost track of what I was doing and had to begin again. When time was finally called, the proctor allowed the remaining students to continue working on the test. Several were still working when I left.

I was appalled by the way the test had been run. In January I wrote a letter to ETS describing what I had observed at Julia Richman High School.

... ... ...

No Bathroom Supervision

Some proctors turn the other way while students consult pocket dictionaries or work math problems on wristwatch calculators. Students too timid to cheat in the testing room wait for a break and then use their dictionaries and calculators in the bathroom. (ETS's security budget doesn't provide for bathroom supervision). I've heard stories of testing centers where students flipped through the pages of their test booklets before the test, calling out words they didn't know while students with dictionaries looked up definitions. I've heard about centers where students actually walked around the room during the test, comparing their answer sheets with those of other students. I've talked to six people who told me they'd been paid to take the SAT for other students; four of these impostors were paid directly by the parents of the students for whom they had been cheating. I heard about one girl who, after doing very well on the PSAT, became the object of a bidding war among classmates willing to pay for the privilege of sitting next to her during the SAT.

One recent fad in cheating on the SAT is taking the test untimed. ETS permits students with "diagnosed visual, physical or perceptual handicaps of a temporary or permanent nature" to take the test over periods as long as two days. Many students legitimately need this service. But others see it as a golden opportunity to improve their scores, and there are doctors willing to say that almost anyone has a "perceptual handicap." I heard about two friends (one with a legitimate handicap) who took the SAT untimed about ten days apart. ETS used the same test form both times. The first student to take the test consulted a dictionary during breaks. The second learned many of the questions in advance from his friend.

I took the SAT again at Julia Richman in May. Once again, no one checked my identification. My proctor this time was a young woman who was having a great deal of trouble reading her seating chart. She couldn't decide which end went where and she couldn't figure out how the diagram related to the classroom. She turned it upside down, then right-side up, then upside down. I simply found my name on the paper and took my seat. She didn't ask me who I was. I didn't even take my wallet out of my pocket.

The proctor was having so much trouble with the seating chart that finally the supervisor came in and told her just to seat us anywhere. A few students changed seats. The supervisor turned on the lights, something our proctor had forgotten to do, and left.

Then Anella Schmidt, the ETS observer, arrived. Schmidt was a solidly-built woman with the stern look and patronizing demeanor of a minor government official on a tour of the provinces. Her gray hair was tied back in a bun. She wore a name tag identifying her as an emissary from "ETS, Princeton, NJ." Periodically she made portentous jottings in a green notebook. Her first act was to modify the supervisor's random-seating order. She explained that ETS needed to know where everyone was sitting so that it could later detect cheating. "Are any of these Perezes related to each other?" she asked, scowling at the seating chart. Then she went around the room noting where everyone was sitting.

Our proctor wasn't quite sure what to do. This was her first time giving the test. She apparently hadn't read her instruction manual, although she had certainly done something with it: It was torn, folded, and crumpled. Schmidt looked over her shoulder and told her what to do. "You've got to read all that," she said when the proctor skipped part of the instructions. By this time Schmidt had taken the seat next to mine. I may be paranoid, but I find it peculiar that, with several hundred students and more than a dozen classrooms to choose from, Anella Schmidt decided to sit next to the person whose phone call had prompted her trip. If I were Anella Schmidt, I'd have wanted to observe the proctor about whom the complaint had been made, not the person who had made it.

It was hard to hear the instructions, because the proctor had a quiet reading voice. She stumbled over some of the longer words. When she got to the part about using test books for scratch paper, she inserted the word "not" and made it sound as though we weren't supposed to. There was some confusion about this; eventually it was cleared up. Then a girl in the back of the classroom asked if we were supposed to guess. The proctor deferred to Schmidt.

"I wouldn't guess unless you can eliminate two of the five," said ETS's official representative. "Guessing isn't going to help you."

As ETS knows, this is absolutely untrue. Because of the way the SAT is scored, students who can eliminate even one choice on a problem are most likely to improve their scores by guessing blindly among the remaining answers. Guessing intelligently is one of the keys to doing well on the SAT. Anella Schmidt of "Princeton," on hand to ensure that the test was properly administered, misinformed us about how to take the test.

Schmidt left when we began to work. Our proctor spent most of her time standing at the window, with her back to us, watching some boys play basketball (noisily) on the playground below. It was a nice day and she didn't want to be doing what she was doing. At break time students were excused, in groups of two or three, to go to the bathroom, which, as usual, was unproctored.

I talked to Katzman a couple of days after the test. He said that a bored proctor at one of the test centers hadn't timed students on individual sections of the test, but had merely told them they had three hours to complete the whole thing. This meant that the students could work on any section they wanted to whenever they wanted to–an enormous advantage. Another proctor, for an Achievement Test, had fallen asleep at his desk. One hour went by. Then another. When he finally woke up, his students had been happily working on a one-hour exam for nearly three hours. The proctor asked the students not to say anything, because he didn't want to get in trouble with ETS.

"The SAT is an unproctored exam," Katzman says. "You take it on the honor system."

©1984 David Owen

Cheating in the News

TEST FRAUD ON SAT

NEW YORK - Test fraud is alive and well and a sports magazine reports that top high school basketball recruits such as Zendon Hamilton of St. John's and Avondre Jones of Fresno State cheated on their college entrance exams.

In this week's Sports Illustrated, an article titled "Troubling Questions" details how several high school stars managed to cheat on their SATs and ACTs with the help of high school coaches, recruiters and "middlemen."

While most of the people involved in the Hamilton and Jones cheating scenarios deny wrongdoing, Nate Cebrun, a self-described "sports consultant" who spent 30 days in jail for his part in providing merchandise to Florida State athletes in the 1994 Foot Locker scandal, says he was the "middleman."

In Hamilton's case, SI reported that on nine occasions in 1993-94, the highly-recruited 6-foot-11 center from Floral Park, N.Y., failed to score the minimum on his SATs the NCAA required for freshman eligibility.

On the 10th try, Hamilton passed, but only after he traveled from New York to Los Angeles, met with Cebrun for his "SAT tutoring program" the night before the test and took the exam at Lynwood High School, where Cebrun's brother once served as principal.

Cebrun told SI he had "passed on the name of this 'tutoree' to someone who works in Lynwood's testing program so there would be a safety net." Cebrun told SI that the insider would make the proper adjustments or additions to Hamilton's answer sheet before it was sealed and returned to the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
Cebrun said he was paid $2,000 for making sure Hamilton passed the test. SI also reported that two other men were with Cebrun and Hamilton the night before he took his final SAT -- Greg "Shoes" Vetrone, then an assistant at Cal-Irvine and now in the same position with UNLV, and Gary Charles, coach of Hamilton's AAU team.
Hamilton's father George told SI "the allegation that Zendon was involved in any wrongdoing with SAT tests is totally false."

Jim Wallace, a vice principal who has supervised the administration of the SAT at Lynwood for 14 years, told the magazine that orchestrated fraud at his testing center was "impossible. Ridiculous. This is a test center, not a cheat center."

Vetrone, and several unnamed coaches, told SI that Lynwood was notorious for test fraud.

Cebrun told SI he also helped Jones, a 1993 McDonald's High School All-America, pass his SAT. Jones has gone from Southern California to Chaffey College in California back to USC and is now set to play for Fresno State this season.
SI says Jones took his SAT at Lynwood, improving a non-qualifying score of 630 by 460 points in two months. Jones told SI his test score was investigated and validated by ETS.

According to ETS, about 1,000 of the two million SAT answer sheets it processes each year are invalidated on suspicion of cheating. American College Testing (ACT) told SI is has a similar rate.

[Oct 25 2000] Cheating Charges Made Against Oakland Teacher - SAT-9 test-taking prep questioned

An Oakland teacher could be fired for preparing her fifth-grade class for the annual statewide exam by giving students real test questions, school district officials said yesterday.

``Four different children remembered studying the same five reading comprehension stories before taking the test,'' said Alma Williams, director of research and evaluation for the Oakland schools.

``We called the state and confirmed those five reading comprehension stories were on the SAT-9,'' she said.

Toler Heights fifth-graders posted reading scores this spring that far outshined those of their peers. There is only one fifth-grade class at Toler Heights, and 85 percent of its students scored at or above the national average in reading. Last year, only 19 percent of the fourth-graders -- many of whom are in the fifth-grade class this year -- scored at or above the national average in reading.

Meanwhile, only 9 percent of this year's second- and fourth-graders at the school, and 6 percent of its third graders, scored at or above the national average in the subject.

The Toler Heights Elementary schoolteacher, who has denied wrongdoing, first came under suspicion three weeks ago when the California Department of Education flagged her class along with another Oakland class at Horace Mann Elementary because test answer sheets had too many bubbles that had been erased and changed to correct responses.

At that time, Superintendent Dennis Chaconas also offered up a third school for potential trouble, after a parent at Carl Munck ElementaryCarl Munck Elementary said she couldn't believe her daughter's test scores jumped from the bottom to the top in one school year.

Critics of new standardized testing for public schools say the cash rewards promised to successful schools and teachers can encourage cheating. Schools that fare poorly on new state exams could ultimately be taken over by the state.

The Oakland school district conducted its own investigation and didn't find any evidence that the teachers had made the eraser marks, Chaconas said. The test answer sheets in question had about two to four erased and corrected answers per test section. Children who were interviewed in those classes said they changed the answers themselves, Williams said.

Oakland's three suspicious schools were among 51 in California whose Academic Performance Index scores were withheld last month for ``testing irregularities.''

Six of those red-flag schools, including Schafer Park Elementary in Hayward, confirmed to the state that something was indeed amiss in their testing process.

Another 13 schools, including Longfellow Arts & Technology Magnet School in Berkeley and Vacaville High, reported themselves to the state. At Longfellow, a teacher accidentally passed out the real test and caught it before the students got it. At Vacaville, teachers reported a teacher for ``suspicious'' behavior in the testing process.

The remaining 32 schools denied wrongdoing, and while some have been exonerated, state officials will ask for more investigations on most of them, said Bill Padia, director of policy and evaluation for the California Department of Education.

The six schools with confirmed irregularities, and now Toler Heights, stand to jeopardize their chances of cashing in on new state rewards for schools that lift their test scores.

Oakland officials cleared the Toler Heights teacher of accusations that she erased the test answers herself, but while investigating came across charges that she used actual test material to prepare her class for the exam.

The SAT-9 is kept under lock and key at schools, and teachers are not given access to it until the day of the test.

``We investigated the security at Toler, and we feel that they had proper procedures,'' Williams said. ``We have no idea how she got the test content.''

Although Oakland teachers use a booklet during the school year called Test Ready to prepare their students for the SAT-9, it does not contain test questions that would be found on the statewide exam.

Instead, it teaches test-taking skills, such as how to spot a misspelled word, how to make educated guesses on multiple-choice questions, and for the younger students, how to fill out bubble answer sheets.

Next week, the Oakland school district human resources department will write a report to Chaconas with a recommendation about how to handle the Toler Heights teacher.

``I am prepared to take severe action, up to and including termination if I deem that is appropriate,'' Chaconas said.

E-mail Meredith May at mmay@sfchronicle.com

How to cheat on the SAT - Yahoo! Answers

Cheating is so cake on the SATs. The key is during the breaks. they allow you to go to the bathroom, and at least at the place that I go to nobody follows you in there, so just take all your friends in there with you and discuss some of the tough math problems and bounce ideas off each other. then when you go back to test be careful not to get caught but go back to the section and change the answer. Its a lot easier if you have a good memory and don't have to look at which letter is the correct answer. Also if you run out of time on a math problem at the end of one of the sections if you have extra time you can contiue to work on the math rpoblem then change your answer if you can figure it out

===

Why would you want to? If you really need a good score so desperately that you're willing to cheat to get it, you're probably not going to be successful in the long run anyway. Bad morals lead you nowhere.

[Nov 7, 1994] SAT cheating incident concerns U. officials - Resources

A University student's admission on national television that he unlawfully raised his score on the verbal portion of Scholastic Aptitude Test has placed the charged issue of cheating on campus in the spotlight once again.

Although the student's identity was concealed during an interview broadcast last week on ABC's PrimeTime Live, he said he thinks his admission to the University was secured by the 100-point boost he received from using a dictionary during the test.

Admissions Dean Lee Stetson, who did not see that segment of the show, said since there are so many elements in a student's record, the SAT score alone is not significant.

"I think it's a matter of his judgment, whether he would have been admitted or not," Stetson said. "I'm just disappointed that students would be so blatant to consider cheating at all, let alone in that manner."

According to Stetson, large score increases -- greater than 200 points between tests -- often tip Admissions officials off to the possibility of fraudulent test results.

He added that the Admissions Office never knows if students who have applications pending at the University have been accused of falsely completing standardized tests -- any suspicious test results are simply invalidated by the Educational Testing Service.

But the inclination of students to cheat is not unique to the University, Stetson said.

"I think we are typical of most highly competitive institutions," he said. "The pressure to achieve may lead students to stoop to levels that are just not appropriate."

Wharton and Engineering senior Matthew Kratter, chairperson of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, said SCUE is very concerned about the issue of academic integrity on campus.

The group produced a guide to help teachers catch cheaters in the late 1980s, and is currently working with the Provost's Task Force on Academic Integrity to develop a academic code of conduct, he added.

"I think it's a shame that there is someone at Penn who cheated on their SATs and was admitted," Kratter said. "[But] only with positive proof could the University take action."

University Provost Stanley Chodorow said he has heard about cheating as a problem on campus from faculty and students alike. Most of the rumors, however, are supported by anecdotal, rather than statistical, evidence.

Because Chodorow considers academic integrity a "central value" of the University, he said he is working with students on the Judicial Oversight Committee to develop an honor code applicable to the entire institution.

Under such a code, penalties for academic dishonesty would be severe, regardless of whether the infraction occurred before or after matriculation.

"If we identified a Penn student who had cheated on the SAT and could prove it, we would take the matter very seriously and might move to bring a charge of false representation against him or her," he said.

Anyone who engages in that sort of conduct, Chodorow added, does not deserve to be enrolled at the University -- although no system designed to detect deception is foolproof.

History Professor Bruce Kuklick said an incident in his History 451 class five years ago, where 10 students swapped take-home exam answers and were caught by teaching assistants who noticed similarities between their papers, has caused him to take the position that students are not trustworthy.

"I do all sorts of things to make sure that cheating does not occur [in my classes]," he said. "I don't like doing this -- I don't think it's an appropriate faculty role."

While the awareness of cheating as a "common, but not rampant" problem on campus has increased in recent years, Kuklick said the realization that the problem of academic dishonesty is widespread will not necessarily solve it.

"I think [Chodorow] is right in wanting to inculcate on campus a set of attitudes in cheating is just not acceptable," he said.

But Kuklick contends that faculty members "ought to have presumptive rights" in cases of cheating, and should be able to act summarily on their suspicions, even though injustice would result if professors' presumptions are incorrect.

This position may be difficult to reconcile with Chodorow's plan to involve students, like those serving on the Task Force on Academic Integrity, in the creation of a University honor code, but Kuklick is not concerned.

"Chodorow's basic idea is a very good one," he said. "[It is] a real difficult problem that [he] is trying to deal with."

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Random Findings

cheating on the SAT - College Discussion

cheating on the SAT
hey everyone...in denial's post inspired me to ask CCers for advice too...

i'm also a regular poster on CC and i made a new account for this sole thread.

basically, i took the SAT for somebody else and got caught. Collegeboard hasn't banned me from their tests and as far as i'm concerned...they aren't reporting it to wherever i apply. by no means did i get off easy though....i lost the trust of my school's administration, faculty, some peers, my parents, and was kicked out of many of my extracurricular activities.

previously, i'd always been the person everyone at my school thought had a good shot at an ivy league school. i take a very rigorous courseload + more, have good extracurriculars, leadership, community service, etc etc. i had a decent shot. funny thing was...i never considered going to a top tier school until a year ago....i just loved challenging myself. but when i realized i was a decent candidate, i checked them out and realized how much i would love the atmosphere, so it is really difficult to give up that dream because of a stupid mistake i made.

my academic integrity is now obviously questionable. everybody at the school basically never expected i would do this and it was definitely an isolated incident. however, most colleges won't recognize that and will probably see this as defining my character. CB won't report it, but my counselor has made it clear that she will include it in my letter of recommendation so as not to invalidate her word for other students by hiding the truth about me.

the question is... do you think i should even bother applying to private schools anymore? or should i just set my sights on in-state public schools? this is so embarassing to have to explain to admissions and i can't imagine how they would possibly accept me with what i did. i know everyone should at least try if they want something this badly but it's hard to imagine how i will feel when i get rejected from every school....

even though my parents aren't happy about what i did...they feel like i'm giving up too easily because i had so much potential besides this major blemish.

i'm posting this because i'm asking for advice....i've already heard countless times how terrible of a person i am for doing this.


thanks for reading.

Possible to cheat on SAT II's - College Discussion

10-17-2006, 02:12 AM

woolrich Junior Member Join Date: Oct 2006 Posts: 160

Possible to cheat on SAT II's?????


Before i discuss this i would like you all to know i never did this and never plan on doing this. just wondering if you guys think collegeboard has taken any measures to prevent this.

lets say you only register for one SAT II test....cant you just keep it when the proctor collects the first test after the first hour and continue working on it???? they always make you raise your hand.....just don't raise it. In this process you would have two hours to take one of the tests instead of only 1..... your almost guaranteed a great score.

It seems relatively easy to perform this method because in my past experiences the proctors rarely walk around and if they do they dont really look at your answer sheet. I even watched them collect the answer documents and they dont look at the answer columns.

please comment

10-17-2006, 02:40 AM #2
Perplexitudinous

Member


Join Date: Apr 2006

Posts: 646
I think the College Board is relying on the strict proctors out there to catch cheating of this nature. Also, I doubt that having two hours instead of one for an SAT II could "guarantee a great score." It might fetch an 800 for someone who would otherwise score 720-760 or thereabouts, but the fact of the matter is that unless you know the material you're being tested on, it is impossible to score well, regardless of time. In any case, anyone who does happen to get caught can expect a satisfactory punishment.
10-17-2006, 04:01 AM #3
electriclunch

New Member


Join Date: May 2006

Posts: 15
it might be useful on math 2c or lit......not tests like history or sciences though. never a good idea to cheat on a collegeboard test.
10-17-2006, 01:06 PM

oasis

Senior Member


Join Date: Aug 2004

Location: Taiwan->MIT 2011

Posts: 1,577

It has been tried; I've heard of this happening in test centers.

However, if you are "clever" enough to come up with this strategem, you should be smart enough to just study and do well without worrying about running out of time.

10-17-2006, 01:56 PM #5

Edwardz

Member


Join Date: May 2005

Location: Syosset, NY --> Dartmouth

Posts: 459

The answer is Yes, it's possible. Just don't try it.

10-17-2006, 04:09 PM

etti

Senior Member

Join Date: May 2006

Posts: 1,062

Where are your morals? If you cheat on a test, then you'll cheat in life.

10-17-2006, 04:11 PM #7

FindFishFast

Member

Join Date: Nov 2004

Posts: 649

what i learned from THE PERFECT SCORE - "a victimless crime is still a crime"

10-17-2006, 04:54 PM #8
tashin

Junior Member


Join Date: Oct 2006

Posts: 77
has anyone read "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller???
Does chating in society lead to success???? I rather say yes.... but knowing how to cheat is the key....

well, i'm no cheater.... but the real truth is like that...there are times in life in which the second choise is best....
what about all the rich people? do you consider them as angels?? never cheated??? they scape taxes everytime they can and noone can balme them because they have money all over the world....Mac? Microsoft? etc..? cheaters..... but that's the cruel reality......

10-17-2006, 05:21 PM #9
Cavalier07

Junior Member


Join Date: Jul 2006

Posts: 231
Here's a problem with spending 2 hours on one Subject Test: When you finally turn in the test booklet the proctor will notice that you have completed one less test than you should have given the number of hours. Even if you get away with spending 2 hours on a test, there's almost no chance you won't get caught for having completed less tests than the number of hours you spent in the testing room. I wouldn't try this.
10-17-2006, 05:22 PM #10
Godot

Member


Join Date: Oct 2004

Location: Buffalo, NY

Posts: 533

Think again...
Not all rich people cheat. Some do certainly, just as some working-class or middle-class people cheat, but you might be surprised that the vast majority of the wealthy earned their money in legal and legitimate ways. The headlines in the news are the EXCEPTION rather than the rule, and you already know what happens when they get caught. The consequences for cheating when one is ultra-rich are far more severe than when one is simpy an "ordinary" citizen. And even if it were true that the rich do cheat, that should never be used as an excuse for cheating yourself.

One can certainly get away with cheating sometimes, but I believe that in one way or another, today or at a later time, one usually reaps the negative repercussions of his actions.

Sermon over.

10-17-2006, 05:44 PM #11
Perplexitudinous

Member


Join Date: Apr 2006

Posts: 646
Cavalier07, simply (& quickly) fill in a second test sheet with random answers. (Of course, then you get an 800 and a 200 on the same test date... might not look too good... lol)
10-17-2006, 06:23 PM #12
19382

Senior Member


Join Date: Jul 2006

Posts: 1,754
"you might be surprised that the vast majority of the wealthy earned their money in legal and legitimate ways"

And where do you get this information?

10-17-2006, 07:16 PM #13
l1ght_headed

Junior Member


Join Date: Sep 2006

Location: so'cal

Posts: 122

don't cheat on a collegeboard test. if you're caught the consequences could be severe.
10-17-2006, 07:30 PM #14
Godot

Member


Join Date: Oct 2004

Location: Buffalo, NY

Posts: 533

I'm sure that some wealthy people cheat on their taxes and such, but show me a statistic or study that indicates that the "cheat rate" is higher among the wealthy than the non-wealthy. What's more, cheating is a very poor way of actually building one's wealth (starting a business, investing, etc.). Customers are very unforgiving of any form of deception or cheating in business, and bulding a great, enduring company absolutely reqiures integrity and good business ethics. Companies such as Enron and Tyco are in ruins because of a lack of integrity in its executives.

Categorical beliefs and statements such as "all rich people cheat" or that being wealthy somehow necessarily involves compromising one's principles actually prevent one from ever becoming rich. Your subconscious simply will not allow you to.

Of course, the sad fact is that there is probably more cheating in the schools today than there was in, say, the 1950s. Many students somehow rationalize that if people such as the rich cheated their way to the top, they must as well.

10-17-2006, 10:25 PM #15
Tim_ND08

Senior Member


Join Date: Sep 2006

Posts: 2,391
ooooo.. its gettn a littly fiesty in here.....



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