SAT Scandal Grows as More Youth Surrender in New York

by on September 5th, 2010
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COMMENTARY | More students involved in the SAT and ACT cheating ring in Nassau Country turned themselves in to the district attorney’s office Tuesday morning, Nov. 22. This case is another piece of the unfolding scandal that came to light in September when Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, was arrested on felony fraud charges. He allegedly impersonated high school students and took the SAT test for them, for a fee of between $1,500 and $2,500. Six students were arrested along with Eshaghoff at that time.

This new development only scratches the surface in what is deeply disturbing trend. As the additional test takers have surrendered to authorities, the climbing list of paying students is alarming. The schools in this region of New York are known as high-performers with a better than average graduation rate of 97% and the vast majority of the students plan on pursuing higher education. In fact, the SAT scores from the Great Neck North High School are well above the national average according the school’s website.

These high-performing schools unfortunately set a strange precedent according to Michael DerGarabedian, one of the attorneys representing the youth who paid to have another student take their test said, “We teach our kids it’s all right to cheat. I don’t think it’s right to prosecute them. That’s the rule we’re setting for them.”

As a mom and an educator, I am shocked at that statement, but after watching the sad failure of our very own Congressional Super Committee and all the scandals and mishandling of funds that have come to light recently, DerGarabedian may be on to something. Parents may not be out rightly teaching their children to cheat, although I understand that is a very real possibility, the examples and pressure to succeed can cause individuals to make shaky decisions. Taking the easy way out is more often than not, celebrated. Get rich quick schemes and short term solutions are more of the norm rather than hard work and perseverance.

One short term solution that is completely doable was suggested by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Rice suggested photographing students as they take the SAT. Those photos would then be attached to the answer sheet. Simple and effective, this low key method would eliminate much, if not all of the blatant cheating.

There is more to educating our nation’s youth than teaching facts. This case illuminates the fact that the adults need to do a much better job at teaching honesty and integrity. The students that have already been arrested, as well as those yet to be arrested, made a conscious choice to scam the system. They did not hurt the system; instead, they victimized their own peers by bumping honest kids out of college slots. They have also ultimately hurt their own futures as they face criminal charges.

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