Student Perspective: SAT cheating scandal

 

Below is an article published in a Great Neck High School newspaper. The article is a student's perspective of the SAT cheating epidemic that first came to life in his hometown.

 

Cheating amongst students has come to the forefront as an epidemic in high schools across America over the past few months. Most notably, seven students from Great Neck North High School– past and present – were arrested for disrespecting the system. The real cause of their arrests? Naïveté.

Sure, their actions are the epitome of immoral practices in education and represent a rampant problem throughout the high-stakes testing culture we live in.

But they were arrested for something that happens in schools on a daily basis, whether you want to believe it or not; all the while, Wall Street executives live in mega mansions as a result of their corrupt culture that led to the Great Recession and the loss of millions of jobs.

This is not to say that the students were right, but the actions of these students pale in comparison to those of their elders who get by with corruption and cheating on a daily basis. Sounds like a double standard to me.

A teacher of mine once said, “No one is going to care how you do in my class twenty years from now. Preserve your integrity, be honest, and be true to yourselves.” The message was simple—don’t cheat.

Unfortunately, we live in a shortsighted, materialistic society that is more concerned with numbers than morals.

We can look to the massive cheating scandals that rocked the Atlanta and Philadelphia public school systems this past summer as examples.

Teachers and administrators knowingly altered test scores to achieve and exceed the standards set in place. Have any of them been arrested? Of course not.

Standardized testing creates a sense of fear and intimidation, causing teachers to violate the exams' ethical standards.

These teachers, like the SAT mastermind, were paid to cheat. The only difference? The teachers were paid through their legitimate salaries.

However, only the students have been reprimanded by the criminal justice system. District Attorney Kathleen Rice claimed that by arresting those implicated in the SAT scandal, she was acting in the best interest of the students, as the cheaters gained an upper hand in applying to college. Unfortunately, this type of action fails to solve the problem.

Yes, what the students did was wrong, and I will admit that the arrest of the ringleader was warranted. That is because his arrest was based on charges of scheming to defraud, criminal impersonation and falsifying business records.  In what world is any of that legal?

But the educational institution—where the students studied at the time of the transgression—should impose disciplinary action for cheating on a test, despite the offense being prosecutable in the courts. The problem—although not justifiable—should not be treated as criminal.

The issue is not the students. The issue is our societal values. Although DA Rice should be commended for trying to address this conundrum, it is not being addressed in an appropriate forum or in an appropriate manner.

Rice provided us with an example of the failures of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and College Board while highlighting the unwise and unethical actions of the students.

Some say cheating is a result of entitlement while others believe it is a result of our high-stakes testing culture. Either way, we have a problem and arresting these students is not the answer.

If students were offered the ability to cheat and get a perfect score or work their darnedest and get a B, you would struggle to find many students who would not choose the former.

While a generalization, it is not far from the truth. And how can teachers, parents, and society at-large blame them?

I am fortunate to come from a home where I have the independence to be who I want, as long as I try to be the best that I can be (although at times I do lack in that department).

But simply trying does not work in many households and it certainly is not well respected in our community.

Working hard is great, but unless you have an Ivy League bumper sticker by the end of senior year, your efforts are perceived as for naught.

In a numbers driven society, the cost of cheating seemed relatively nonexistent to the cheaters. The only thing at stake was their integrity.

Society rarely seems to punish the cheaters, so integrity was clearly on the backburner for these students.

Consequently, should we really focus on punishing the students for their actions, or should we reexamine our values and our approach to evaluating education?

To put things in perspective, by arresting these cheaters, students may be frightened from similar action in the future, but we are not effectively evaluating the root of the problem.

Cheating is not a practice; it is a culture.

 

Zak Malamed

RTN Student Leadership Board Co-Leader