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Senate Amendment Targets SAT Cheaters

April 09, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Impostors hired by students to take their college entrance examinations could be found guilty of a misdemeanor under an amendment passed Thursday by the Missouri Senate.

The debate turned boisterous as senators, only half-kiddingly, called the amendment offered by Sen. Steve Ehlmann, R-St. Charles, silly.

Ehlmann also proposed punishing persons who sell term papers to students who intend to submit the paper as their own work. This portion was dropped after senators argued it would be impossible to prove that the seller knew the student was going to pass the paper off as his own, rather than just use it as background material.

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, was one of the most vocal critics of both provisions of the amendment. He said he opposed using SAT or ACT scores as a criterion for college admission, saying anyone who wants to go to college should be able to.

"I don't care if some kid goes to extremes to get the opportunity to learn more," Jacob said.

But Ehlmann said colleges don't have unlimited spaces for students.

"Those tests are discriminatory against some groups," Jacob said.

"That's not a reason to cheat," Ehlmann replied.

Senators voted 16-14 in favor of keeping in the language that would punish student impostors. Ehlmann said universities can take care of punishing the students.

About 2 million SAT tests are taken each school year, said Ray Nicosia, director of test security for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J. ETS administers the SAT tests. The company requires test takers to show a photo i.d. and bring an admission ticket sent by the company after the student registers for the test.

Nicosia said that roughly 1,000 to 2,000 of these test results are questioned. About two out of three of these cases are dismissed, he said, after the company examines several "triggers." Such triggers can include suspicions by the test administrator the test taker isn't actually the student, handwriting that doesn't match a statement test takers are required to write in longhand that they'll abide by test rules, and disparate scores that students might receive on one test compared to a previous one they may have taken.

A Class B misdemeanor carries up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $500.

The amendment was part of a larger crime bill that is still pending in the Senate.

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