Col­lege test com­pa­nies de­fend poli­cies amid cheat­ing scan­dal

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jo Kroeker

Part of a col­lege-cheat­ing scan­dal rock­ing the na­tion hinged on two test proc­tors who ac­cepted bribes of up to $10,000 per stu­dent to in­flate scores on col­lege ad­mis­sions tests.

The Col­lege Board, which ad­min­is­ters the SAT, and ACT Inc. have de­fended their poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, which were ex­ploited by the ring­leader of the cheat­ing scheme. Both test­ing com­pa­nies rely on schools that host test ses­sions to se­lect ad­min­is­tra­tors and proc­tors who will fol­low the rules.

Ac­tress Felic­ity Huff­man and high-pow­ered Green­wich lawyer Gor­don Ca­plan are among the 50 peo­ple en­snared in the plot to get their chil­dren into elite univer­si­ties, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors. The master­mind, Wil­liam “Rick” Singer, a col­lege ad­mis­sions con­sul­tant in New­port Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty Tues­day to rack­e­teer­ing and other charges in the $25 mil­lion scheme.

“ACT con­tracts with thou­sands of peo­ple to lo­cally ad­min­is­ter the ACT around the coun­try,” Tarah DeSousa, with me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the ACT, said in a state­ment Thurs­day. “In these cases, the two charged in­di­vid­u­als al­legedly did not fol­low ACT’s rules.” ACT Inc. said it is co­op­er­at­ing with pros­e­cu­tors.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­forts of the au­thor­i­ties and the at­ten­tion that they have brought to the im­por­tance of fair­ness in test­ing,” the state­ment said.

When proc­tors do not fol­low poli­cies, the Col­lege Board takes ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions, spokesman Jerome White said in a state­ment.

“Fur­ther, when schools don’t com­ply with our

poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, we re­serve the right to pro­hibit them from ad­min­is­ter­ing fu­ture tests,” White said.

But Singer found a way around the sys­tem, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said. In the scheme, he first in­structed a par­ent to get an eval­u­a­tion from a psy­chol­o­gist that their child had learn­ing dif­fer­ences and qual­i­fied for ex­tra time to take col­lege en­trance ex­ams.

Singer then had the fam­ily change the child’s test­ing lo­ca­tion to one of two test cen­ters that he con­trolled — telling the par­ents to fab­ri­cate rea­sons for test­ing out-of­s­tate, such as a bar mitz­vah or a wed­ding.

The test ad­min­is­tra­tors at those sites — Niki Wil­liams and Igor Dvorskiy — were bribed to al­low some­one else to take the exam, to pro­vide stu­dents with cor­rect an­swers, or to re­view and cor­rect the stu­dents’ an­swers af­ter­ward. Ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral court doc­u­ments, Wil­liams, 44, an as­sis­tant teacher at a Hous­ton high school, and Dvorskiy, 42, the di­rec­tor of a pri­vate ele­men­tary and high school in Los An­ge­les, re­ceived up to $10,000 for each test that was changed.

Singer as­sured the fam­i­lies he had used the scheme many times. In a June call, Green­wich’s Ca­plan asked Singer, “And it works?” And Singer replied, “Ev­ery time.” Both laughed, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral transcripts.

Ca­plan’s daugh­ter took the ACT in De­cem­ber at the West Hol­ly­wood Test Cen­ter, and Singer promised her test would be fixed so the score would be in the low 30s. A per­fect score on the test is 36.

In the case of Wil­liam McGlashan Jr., a pri­vate eq­uity in­vestor from Cal­i­for­nia, and his son, it ap­pears some­one else took the test. Records

show the ACT was taken on Dec. 9 and 10, 2017, in West Hol­ly­wood. But cell­phone records show the son was hun­dreds of miles away in the San Fran­cisco area on the sec­ond day.

Both Ca­plan and McGlashan have been ar­rested on fed­eral charges of with con­spir­acy to com­mit mail and wire fraud.

In re­cent years, The Col­lege Board has in­creased test se­cu­rity ef­forts and re­sources, White said. It has added per­son­nel to its test se­cu­rity team, who have sug­gested adding more test con­tent, ban­ning and col­lect­ing cell­phones, em­ploy­ing lock boxes, con­duct­ing data-driven analy­ses of test-taker be­hav­iors and en­hanc­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures at test cen­ters.

“We’re do­ing more to­day than ever to en­sure the test scores we re­port to col­leges are ac­cu­rate and valid,” he said.

Julie Ja­cob­son / As­so­ci­ated Press

Gor­don Ca­plan of Green­wich, left, walks out of fed­eral court in New York Tues­day.

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