More security for the SAT, but is it better?

Students will now have to register a current photo of themselves in order to take the SAT or the ACT, reports Caralee Adams at Education Week.  (See also this article in the NY Times.)

Under the new measures, students must submit a current photo (digital or print) when registering for the tests, and the photo will appear on the admissions ticket for the testing site, according to a press release from the College Board, which administers the SAT.

Supervisors at the center will have a roster of students with their name, date of birth, gender, test type, attending high school, and access to a printable online register of photos. Upon entering the testing site, students must present the admissions ticket. They also may be asked to show the photo ticket when re-entering the test room following breaks or upon collection of the answer sheets.

In the past, students were required to present only a photo ID when they arrived.

This is in the wake of a cheating scandal in New York.  There was a problem… so something must be done, right?

Well, the problem is people sitting in the chair who ain’t the person applying to college.  That’s what you have to fix.  It seems pretty clear that false test-takers were able to get fake ID’s in order to take the tests under the old regime.

Now, maybe I’m just a pessimist, but all this seems to do is move up the deadline for finding your test-taking proxy.  Who is really going to know that the photo you submitted with your registration isn’t you?  My first thought is, “This is kinda dumb.”

Now, under the new rules, it will certainly be easier to discover cheaters…

After the test, high schools will receive scores for all test-takers enrolled at that school. A registration-data repository will be created with students’ information and photos for review upon request by high schools, colleges, universities, and the Education Testing Services office of testing integrity.

… but who is actually going to sit down and do the (now easier) work?  Who is going to sit down with the high school year book, or the freshman facebook and check the faces?

  • ETS has every reason to do it, but they can’t do it, because they don’t know what the kid really looks like.
  • High schools seem to be in the best position — and from the Times article, that seems to be where ETS is expecting enforcement.  But what incentive to schools have to actually check these things?
  • College have some incentive — but it’s harder for them to know in advance what the student really looks like absent requesting a photograph (which is sure to bring lawsuits — there’s already mutterings about whether ETS should send the photos to the colleges).
  • Parents?  They’re probably the ones paying the proxy in the first place.

If this does work, it will be at the high school level.  And ETS will have successfully contracted out its security services to high schools across the nation without paying them a dime.

Hmm.  That’s not dumb at all.  That’s kind of brilliant.