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Published: Thursday, 3/29/2012

Test of integrity

Beginning in September, cheating on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams will be a lot harder. Students who take the tests will have to submit their photos. The photos will be printed on the tests, so proctors and administrators at testing sites can double-check the identities of the test-takers.

The new measures were instituted after 20 people were arrested last year in an SAT/ACT cheating scandal in Nassau County, N.Y. Coverage on CBS' 60 Minutes featured a test-taker for hire who sat in for dozens of students over the years. He charged thousands of dollars for his services and insisted he wasn't alone.

In a deal to spare him prison time, he showed how vulnerable the college testing system was to fraud. Previously, all that was required at the testing site was an easily forged identification card.

People with the financial resources to hire ringers with fake IDs to take the test for them could buy better exam results. Mediocre students were accepted by elite colleges and universities, while smarter, more academically prepared students had to settle for schools further down their list of preferences.

Cheating on the SAT, formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and ACT, formerly called American College Testing, by impersonators has been going on for years. The decision by the Nassau County district attorney's office to prosecute these criminals lit a fire under the College Board to overhaul its security system. Now there will be multiple checks of IDs before the test, during the break, and when the tests are collected. These enhanced measures will not add to the cost of taking the test.

The integrity of college entrance exams is critically important. The only question is why this fix took so long.

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