Tag Archives: SAT

NY SAT Cheating Scandal Expands

New York’s SAT/ACT cheating scandal seems to be growing exponentially as more and more students are being arrested for either taking the standardized tests for other students or paying students who have already graduated to take their SAT/ACT tests for them.

The scandal began to unravel in September with the arrests of seven students including Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, who allegedly impersonated other high school students taking their SAT tests for them for a fee of $1,500 to $2,500. In one incident, Eshaghoff allegedly posed as a girl. All seven were arrested. Eshaghoff was charged with felony fraud, and the other six were charged with misdemeanors. Not surprisingly, they have all pleaded not guilty to these charges. 

Since September, an ongoing investigation in Nassau County has uncovered the existence of a much larger number of students involved in this SAT/ACT cheating scandal, leading Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice to make the following statement on Tuesday:

“In September, my office arrested 7 current and former students from Great Neck North High School for taking part in a high stakes, high dollar scheme to cheat on the SATs. Our investigation has uncovered more than 40 students who either took a standardized test for someone else or paid someone to take the test for them. And today I am announcing the arrests of 13 more students for their roles in the cheating scandal.”

“These arrests include 4 students who took the tests for others, and they will be charged with scheme to defraud in the first degree, criminal impersonation in the second degree, and falsifying business records in the first degree. Nine students are being charged with a misdemeanor offense for paying someone else to take the SAT or ACT for them.”

“These young men and women made choices that impacted their families, their schools, most importantly their fellow students, and their futures. These arrests, I hope, will ensure that they are held accountable for those choices, while shining a light on this broken system so that it can be fixed.”

The growing scandal is centered on a group of Long Island communities with top-ranked schools. It has many questioning both the security of these tests as well as the intense pressure in these communities to do well on these tests, at any cost.

New York state lawmakers have convened a hearing to discuss test security, and exam administrators have retained a firm run by former FBI Director Louis Freeh to review standardized test procedures.

“Honest, hardworking students are taking a back seat to the cheaters,” Kathleen Rice said. “This is a system begging for security enhancements.”

Rice suggested a possible short-term solution which could eliminate cheating; taking photos of the students as they take the tests and attaching these to their answer documents. This simple yet effective method could go far in eliminating most of the cheating, especially the most blatant. Whatever method is decided upon, clearly it is imperative that test proctors be able to guarantee that the individuals taking these tests are who they claim to be.

In a region where schools have a reputation of producing students who are high-performers, with an average graduation rate that exceeds 97 percent, where most students plan on attending college, and SAT scores are well above the national average (according to Great Neck North High School’s website) is it any wonder that high school students are feeling intense pressure to perform exceptionally on the SAT and ACT? Is the expectation by these communities’ schools and parents so high that they are subtly encouraging students to do whatever it takes, even if that means cheating, to reach their goal?

Robin Tobin-Hess, a resident of Great Neck was not surprised when she heard the latest allegations of cheating. “I’m not surprised. I think there’s too much emphasis by the colleges on the SATs. Kids are under a lot of pressure to do well and in affluent areas, they’re going to do what they can to do it,” she said.

Social worker, Shawn Eshaghian, claims that cheating is not just occurring in Great Neck, although he agrees that it is probably easier to accomplish it there. He explained, “A lot of people that have money are in this community, and I’m sure the $2,500, as much as it was big money, especially for a kid, I’m sure their parents give them whatever they want anyway.”

While I am fairly certain that parents are not condoning cheating or outright encouraging it, it is pretty obvious that we would not be reading about this scandal if these kids didn’t feel some pretty intense pressure to produce appropriate scores in order to get into highly respectable colleges and universities.

Finally, this scandal has spurred a healthy debate as to whether these students who are involved in the cheating should be facing criminal charges or whether their alleged involvement in cheating should be handled by the schools they are enrolled in.

Brian Griffin, an attorney for two of the defendants said, “You’re talking about students cheating on tests. You’re not talking about violent crime. You’re not talking about drugs. No one condones, but it does not belong in the criminal justice system.”

Attorney Michael DerGarabedian agreed, stating, “When we glorify Wall Street guys who make money cheating and baseball players who take steroids, how can we condemn kids trying to achieve that same success?”

It seems to me that this scandal points to a frightening tendency in our society to rationalize that honesty and ethics can be sacrificed if the cause is great enough. Somehow, these young people heard the wrong message along the way, at school or at home, or maybe in both places. The message they learned was that success is measured by outward appearances, whether earned or bought; where you live, the grades you get, the school you attend, the job you take…

But none of these are the true measure of a man. It is about how you live; your integrity, your commitment to do your best for yourself and for others, your willingness to give back along the way, your perseverance and dedication to fulfill your goals, your desire to leave this world a better place for having been here. No one can do these things for you, no matter how much you can afford to pay.

Rice stated, “Educating our children means more than teaching them facts and figures. It means teaching them honesty, integrity and a sense of fair play. The young men and women arrested today instead chose to scam the system and victimize their own friends and classmates, and for that they find themselves in handcuffs.”

Missed lessons. Missed opportunities. And so many young lives forever changed as a result.

Seven Arrested in SAT Cheating Scandal in New York

Just when I think I can’t be surprised anymore by ridiculous news in the education field, I am. If you haven’t heard about this one yet, hold on to your hats; it’s pretty crazy!

 

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Sam Eshaghoff was a 2010 graduate of Long Island’s Great Neck North, a public high school that is ranked among the nation’s best. In fact, the school has some notable alumni: Nobel Prize-winning biologist, David Baltimore, Olympic figure skating champion, Sarah Hughes, and filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola.

Apparently 19-year old Eshaghoff has been a busy and enterprising, young man since his graduation. Now a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta, this young man has been providing his services to some of the students at his old Alma Mater. Okay, get your head out of the gutter; I don’t mean sexual services. No, his services have been of the cerebral kind.

According to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, between 2010 and 2011, Eshaghoff has been paid by six students at Great Neck North High School to take the SAT for them. Eshaghoff flew home on various occasions in order to impersonate these high school students on test day. In fact, on one weekend, he took the test twice under two different identities! For his services, he received between $1,500 and $2,500 per student.

Prosecutors explained that the six students involved registered to take the SAT’s at different schools so that they wouldn’t be recognized, and Eshaghoff would show up presenting a forged driver’s license with his picture and the name of the paying student.

A perfect score on the SAT is 2400, so when he took the test for these students, Eshaghoff would score between 2140 and 2220.

The cheating ring was busted when faculty members at the high school became suspicious after hearing rumors of students paying a third party to take the SAT for them early this year. Prosecutors reported that the faculty was able to bust the six suspected students by comparing their past academic performance to SAT scores of students who had taken the test at a different school.

Rice reported to FOX News that the giveaway was “large discrepancies between [the six students’] academic performance records and their SAT scores.” She explained that administrators were able to track the tests to Eshaghoff after analyzing his handwriting.

All of the seven students were arrested Tuesday morning for their alleged roles in this bizarre cheating scandal. Eshaghoff faces up to four years in prison, while the six who are being charged with hiring him, whose names are not being made public due to their ages, face misdemeanor charges.

And the district attorney’s office is also investigating the possibility that Eshaghoff took the exam for other students and whether similar cheating has occurred at at least two other high schools in the county.

Eshaghoff’s bond was set at $1,000, while the other six were released on their own recognizance.

Matin Emouna, Eshaghoff’s attorney, said of his client, “He has cooperated with the investigation, and he denies the charges.”

Rice said, “Colleges look for the best and brightest students, yet these six defendants tried to cheat the system and may have kept honest and qualified students from getting into their dream school.”

A statement released by the Great Neck School District said it “does not tolerate cheating” and remains “committed to cooperating with law enforcement in the matter.”

I don’t know why stories like this still surprise me, but they do. I am always amazed at the nefarious lengths people will go to in order to get what they want, rather than just working to get what they want.

These students had all the right resources at their disposal, in this highly ranked school in an affluent part of New York, to earn their own college-appropriate scores on their SAT’s. Instead, they have quite possibly destroyed any chance of being accepted into the type of college they had aspired to, and will have to work very hard to overcome the cheating-stigma which has become associated with their name.

And Sam Eshaghoff, who is clearly a very intelligent, young man, may find his intelligence squandered in a jail cell.

I guess all the brains in the world don’t necessarily make you smart!