Monday, January 2, 2012

College Admissions: SAT Scores, Cheating, and Ethics

Written by: Lauren Kahn, Educational Consultant / CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC

SAT Answer Sheet

SAT and ACT scores are crucial in the college admissions game and pretty much everyone in high school and in the higher education industry is aware of this. However, committing identity fraud to achieve high scores is not the way to win an admit letter. As an educational consultant with sound ethics, I am a proponent of finding schools that match student's abilities with their performance. I want to report on this matter, because I think the pressure to provide high test scores in the college admissions process is mounting, due to admissions stakes increasing and public school grade inflation. The consequences to identity fraud and cheating are real and sometimes can impact you long-term. Think before you act.

CBS Allison Stewart Reports on the January 1st 60 Minutes Show "The Perfect Score: Cheating on the SAT"

For Sam Eshaghoff, getting a high score on the SAT college admissions exam was more than a point of pride. It was a lucrative business. As Alison Stewart reports, other students paid Eshaghoff up to $2,500 each to take their tests using easily manufactured fake IDs. His scam came crashing down in fall 2011, when he was arrested for criminal impersonation and fraud. Eshaghoff has since accepted a plea deal, but the case still raises major questions about the integrity of the test itself. 

This past September, a 19-year-old college student named Sam Eshaghoff made national news when he was arrested and charged with fraud and criminal impersonation. His crime was taking the SAT and ACT tests for other people. He was so good at it other students paid him thousands of dollars to take the exams for them.

Until he was arrested in September, Sam Eshaghoff seemed like the perfect kid. At New York's Great Neck North High School, he was a top student, vice president of the business club and a varsity athlete, but what may have been his greatest talent was the one that got him in trouble: his ability to ace standardized tests, which was how he began a double life as a con man.
The district attorney who charged him says Sam Eshaghoff was able to take the SATs at least 16 times which has raised questions about the integrity and security surrounding one of the most important tests millions of high school students ever take.
Sam Eshaghoff says paid test takers were an open secret among students at Great Neck North. He became the best known, but he says he was not the first.
Eshaghoff says in the interview, "I had heard of it happening successfully in my own high school. ... Well, it all started with some kid approaching me. He's like, 'Yo, you're good on your SATs and I'm not. And you know this is possible so how much is it gonna take?'

Excerpt from the Transcript on CBS News: 

Here's how he did it: it was as simple as making a high school ID; one of six forms of identification accepted at SAT testing centers.
Eshaghoff: A school ID is what? Like what is that? It's like, it's some colors with literally a name and picture on it. So what I would do is, I took the template from my high school ID, pasted my picture on top of it, and whatever person's name whose test I was taking, I would have their name and date of birth on it. And it was really as easy as that.
Stewart: No social security number?
Eshaghoff: No.
Stewart: No driver's license, no passport?
Eshaghoff: Name and date of birth.
Stewart: On a little piece of plastic?
Eshaghoff: On a little piece of plastic that got laminated once. 
Fake ID in hand, and with a bad case of nerves, Eshaghoff began his lucrative career. He did this successfully 16 times, and got many students into schools they otherwise would not have been accepted to given their grades, class rank, and extra-curricular involvement. This is a travesty to what the SAT is supposed to do, which is even the playing field for all high schoolers to create a standardized evaluation system. 

According to the website, these are the acceptable forms of ID acceptable to take the SAT: 
  • Driver's license
  • State-issued ID
  • School identification card
  • Valid passport
  • Student ID Form (that your school can prepare)
  • Talent Identification Program ID/Authorization to Test Form (grades 7 and 8 only); photo not required

Kurt Landgraf is president of the Educational Testing Service, which administers the test for the College Board and is responsible for SAT test security. Landgraf says roughly 11 million dollars is spent a year on identifying and preventing cheating on the SAT and other college board tests. However, the security measures are not strong enough and this leads to temptation to cheat the system. 

As we embark on another season of students taking the SAT and ACT, think twice before engaging in illegal activity. If test taking is not your cup of tea, enroll in a test prep course early to improve your test taking skills and hire an educational consultant to find schools that do not emphasize the importance of test scores or are test-optional schools.  

I believe there are several schools that are ideal for each candidate and it is what you make of your college experience. In order to give yourself the optimum number of choices for college, have several people that you revere, review your college applications. 
Lone Star Ed Consulting offers essay and resume editing services and can provide rush services for a fee. 

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The information was provided by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here.


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Thank you for your comment. Your input is greatly appreciated. - College News from Texas - Lauren Kahn, M.A.

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