Cheating on the SAT

Sam Eshaghoff, who charged up to $2,500 to take SAT exams for others, tells 60 Minutes why he did it (money) and how (easily faked high school IDs).

Eshaghoff, now a 19-year=old college student, took the SATs at least 16 times for pay. (He assumes parents came up with the money.) He doesn’t sound wracked with guilt.

I mean a kid who has a horrible grade point average, who no matter how much he studies is gonna totally bomb this test, by giving him an amazing score, I totally give him this like, a new lease on life. He’s gonna go to a totally new college, he’s gonna be bound for a totally new career and a totally new path in life.

Correspondent Alison Stewart asks if the client is “going to take the place of someone who may have actually worked for it and deserved that position.” Eshaghoff denies it, without explaining his reasoning.

Eshaghoff copped a plea to fraud and criminal impersonation and agreed to community service: tutoring low-income students on how to take the SAT. His former clients paid no penalty: “It is ETS policy not to tell schools about cases of suspected or confirmed cheating.”

SAT prep courses are a waste of money, Eshaghoff tells CBS. If you’re not a hard-working, “academically conditioned” student, you can’t study your way to significantly higher scores in six months, he believes. Yet he seems to think that the kid with horrible grades who buys his way into a better college will succeed there and go on to “a totally new career” and life path.

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Comments

  1. I think in a sense he’s right. Once they’re in, how many kids flunk out of “better schools,” especially North Shore kids whose parents are likely paying full freight?

    It seems like it seldom happens. A struggling student might be counseled out of a hard sciences or econ major, but rest assured that the school will bend over way backward to send him on his way with a BA.

  2. Actually,

    If the student gets such lousy scores on SAT’s (or ACT’s), despite having a killer GPA (can we say grade inflation here) isn’t going to have a great deal of success in any top tier college/university they are accepted to.

    Generally, those types of students will usually flunk out or drop out after the first year (which is what happens to students to need a great deal of remediation as well).

    I guess cheating is the way of the future in higher education…

    Sigh

  3. superdestroyer says:

    High SAT scores matched with low High School GPA is just as much a warning sign to universities. The WAshington Post had an article about a high school student with a 1400 (math-verbal) SAT who could not get into James Madison University.

    Also, getting into a reach school means that person cannot major in a science or engineering but will get a liberal arts degree that is only useful in log-normally distributed career fields. And the chance of a lousy student with poor work habit succeeding in those fields is very limited.

  4. Isn’t anyone bothered by this kid’s total lack of integrity or honor?

    Maybe we should start teaching values in school again.

  5. look there a thousands of rich people who pay for there kids to get into any college of choice.. its not that big of a deal.. its not how you get in its what you do when you get in. “The Integrity of the system” Screw the system !!!1

  6. High SAT scores matched with low High School GPA is just as much a warning sign to universities.

    No, they aren’t. It used to be very easy to get into a university with high scores and a mediocre or low GPA. It’s still pretty true if the student is a URM, as a high SAT score for these students is rare. Even now, high test scores are enough to get someone into a public university–just not one of the elite ones.

    Public colleges were forbidden to use affirmative action, so they needed a way to get around the law. They started using GPAs, since low income schools in high minority districts can basically create fraudulent GPAs.

    Until the last ten-15 years, a college would much rather have a high SAT, mediocre GPA student than the other way round. All the rhetoric about the importance of grades is pretty much a lie.

    And of course, remediation at the college level is determined entirely by test scores, not be grades.

    The WAshington Post had an article about a high school student with a 1400 (math-verbal) SAT who could not get into James Madison University.

    First, this is your data? One school? Second, I’d want to see the article, since there’s almost certainly more to this.

    • superdestroyer says:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/11/AR2008041104052.html

      A c grade in your freshmen or sophomore year is enough to eliminate many colleges for high school students. the SAT cheating was more than likely students with high GPAs but low SAT scores. The type of students who have avoided hard classes in high school but still want to attend elite universities.

      • Cranberry says:

        Superdestroyer, the school detected the cheating scheme because the students’ GPAs were suspiciously low.

        Ms. Rice, the district attorney, said Great Neck North administrators started hearing rumors about students’ cheating in February. The school compiled a list of students who took the test outside the district, then compared SAT scores with grade-point averages. Six students had B to B-minus grades and SAT scores in the 97th percentile, raising suspicion. A handwriting analysis by E.T.S. determined that one student had taken all six tests.</i.
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/nyregion/after-arrest-a-wider-inquiry-on-sat-cheating.html

        The scandal widened after the initial discovery. Other cheaters were discovered. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/education/on-long-island-sat-cheating-was-hardly-a-secret.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1)

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        Some schools won’t take kids whose SATs are too high, because they assume they’re just the ‘safety school’ and would rather admit a student who will actually show up on campus…

      • Yes, that’s the affirmative action policy in action. Which is what I said.

        The rest of your post is just confirming my point.

        Look, grades are basically fraud, but they allow universities to commit affirmative action with some legal cover.

        That’s the only reason they’ve become more important than test scores in the past ten years. Which, again, is what I said.

        Those schools rejecting the 2270 SAT kid are accepting a lot of 1200 SAT kids who go straight into remediation and then flunk out.

  7. Richard Nieporent says:

    Eshaghoff copped a plea to fraud and criminal impersonation and agreed to community service: tutoring low-income students on how to take the SAT. His former clients paid no penalty: “It is ETS policy not to tell schools about cases of suspected or confirmed cheating.”

    Like the policeman in Casablanca, ETS is “shocked” to learn that cheating occurs on the SAT. And just like the policeman they condone it by not reporting cheating to the colleges. I can understand their reluctance to report suspected cheating due to the threat of legal action. However, there is no excuse for not reporting this type of cheating. I guess as long as they make money on their SAT franchise they really don’t care whether or not students have gotten their grades honestly.

    The so-called punishment for Eshaghoff is a joke. Why didn’t they just have him take the SAT for free for the low-income students? Think of how much “good” he could do then.

  8. I saw a catalog page a while back for cheating technologies used for high stakes exams in China – I couldn’t read the captions, but the images were impressive, tiny receivers and transmitters built into pens, eyeglasses and the like, a receiver the size of a grain of rice that fits in your ear… Make the stakes high enough and you will create a subculture of cheating, and perhaps ultimately make it part of the broader culture.

  9. Let’s put Sammy in a room with 32 high-SAT college seniors who just got rejection letters from the Ivies, and have him make his case. This guy is a zit on the body politic.

  10. I taught at a university in Shanghai, 1987-88, and most of my students cheated, even though there were no stakes at all — it was an optional course (basically GRE test prep) and the grades didn’t count. I flunked the ones I caught — and the university changed the grades to passing.