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Cheating Rampant on College Tests

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What if the test score that you post on a standardized test wasn’t a true measure of your intelligence? Admissions offices tend to correlate intelligence with standardized test scores. If your test score doesn’t reflect your actual performance, doesn’t that make the test score correlation meaningless? The test score difference I am referring to is not related to cultural bias and the arguments sociologists make to harpoon standards in academia. Are you aware of the trend in wealthier high schools where students game the standardized test system?

Gaming the system is rampant among a certain sector in America.  Find an upper crust neighborhood in the US and you will find families that are trying to artificially create an edge.  They have the disposable income or inherited trust assets to do it. The game: Extended Time.

If you are wealthy enough, or desperate enough, you find a willing psychologist. Parents will pay fees of up to $4000 to have their child diagnosed with a learning disability.  When their kids take all tests, including regular tests in school, they get extended time.  Prove a bad enough disability and the student may get up to 4 days to take the ACT!  Jackpot.

The edge is big enough to change the outcome of admission at college. Kids that are medium to great students and have extended time on standardized tests raise their scores significantly, up to four points on the ACT, and on the SAT. It affects math scores more than verbal scores.  The extended time bump is enough to move scores from one echelon of schools to the “elite” schools that sound good at cocktail parties.

Studies have shown it’s easy to fake.

“The results reveal a strikingly high ability of college students to falsify a positive ADHD diagnosis by way of a self-report battery: 75% of students taking the ADHD Rating Scale, 95% of students taking the Brown Adult ADHD Scale, 90% of students taking the Conners Adult ADHD Rating Scale, and 65% of students taking the Wender Utah Rating Scale. These findings are remarkably different from the 7 to 8% of the college population that has been reported previously to be affected by the disorder (Weyandt, et al., 1995). These results also reveal that all four batteries are significantly easy to fake. While the psychological tests used for child diagnosis are refined and well documented, the ease of diagnosis falsification of batteries developed for adults is a sign that further improvement of these scales is needed and a reliable adult scale has yet to be produced.”

Not only that, but the statistical curve showed a bi-modal distribution. ”

“Hypothetically, if you distributed the scores of all students sitting for the SAT on a curve, with or without accommodation, it should approximate the normal curve (a.k.a. the “bell-curve”). When the College Board plotted the 2005 results of students taking the test with accommodations, the results yielded not a bell-curve but rather a bi-modal distribution (meaning the distribution was top and bottom heavy with a disproportionate number of low scoring and high scoring students rather than a tendency toward the mean). This greatly alarmed the College Board that the population of students receiving accommodation did not mirror the rest of the population.”

The reason they do this is because some enterprising parents sued ACT under the American’s With Disability Act to remove the check off showing a child took the test with a disability.  They were successful in 2004.

For decades the College Board placed an asterisk * next to the scores of all students who took the SAT under nonstandard testing conditions. Disability rights activists considered this a form of discrimination and filed multiple suits to revoke the nonstandard designation (*). In 2004, beset by lawsuits, the College Board and ACT Inc., agreed to remove the nonstandard designation, meaning students’ test-scores would no longer be “flagged” as an indication that the students had received extra time or any other special accommodations on their tests. With the flag gone, the number of applications for special accommodations increased dramatically.

Colleges don’t know who is truly disabled, and who isn’t. That makes things tougher on the admissions department. As the practice becomes more widespread, it makes the standardized tests less important-and standards for admission murkier.

The wealthy don’t stop there in their effort to get Junior into an Ivy League school.  

The next step in gaming the system is hiring the essay writer for college applications.  Now, all your kid really has to do is fill in blanks on the college application.  Woody Allen said, “90% of life is just showing up.”, and this exercise proves it!

Any family that can’t afford all these extra financial efforts is theoretically disadvantaged. But, many of those families are already taking a backseat since wealthy families can send their kids to private schools, and enrich their kids more anyway.  There is no way to level that playing field; but the extended time dance is just blatant cheating.  Families are exploiting a loophole they created.

There are some points that need to be crystal clear. In this post, I am pointing out families that truly cheat the system. There are certainly many kids that need extended time on standardized tests due to mental or physical disabilities. I am not talking about those children. Most of them were diagnosed with disabilities before high school. Families that cheat, get their diagnosis in the junior or senior year of high school.

What does it do to the self esteem of the child that knowingly receives extended time when they don’t deserve it?  Can you imagine the kid that received extended time raising his hand in the operating room when they had to make a split second life or death decision? “Stop, stop! I need extended time.”!

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