Testing Service Kept Cheating a Secret

The Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit company that runs most educational testing in the United States uncovered widespread cheating in its programs but did not tell the public, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The article said that a four-month investigation by the newspaper included interviews with current and former ETS officials and a review of internal documents. It showed that the world's largest testing organization, located in Princeton, N.J., failed to fix widespread cheating problems and ensure the integrity of its tests.

ETS officials said in the article that they had been as forthcoming as possible with the limitations that privacy and test integrity put on them. They also pointed to an increased cultural tolerance of cheating.

"What those local authorities want is evidence of who cheated, and that's not what we have," said Nancy Cole, president of ETS. "We don't think we have the evidence to say effectively to the state who cheated and who didn't cheat. But we're pretty sure we got rid of the bulk of the scores that included most of the people who cheated."

In one instance of cheating, the agency discovered that an exam that Louisiana teachers take to become principals was widely available with correct answers. As a result, in a state ranked near the bottom by many educational standards, unqualified teachers were cheating their way into running schools.

In that case, rather than disclose the cheating, the ETS notified 200 teachers that they had to "confirm" their scores with another test.

Cecil Picard, the Louisiana State superintendent of schools complained that the testing service has not been forthcoming about how widespread the problem was. "We tried to pry information out of ETS, and the only answer we got back was it was an ongoing investigation and they wouldn't tell us anything about it," Mr. Picard said.

While the widely taken SAT was not corrupted by widespread cheating, the citizen test for immigrants was, the Times said. When the agency closed 23 citizenship testing centers in New York City in 1995, it publicly said it was a move to improve service, but the real reason was suspicions that test supervisors were taking bribes.

Immigration officials across the country complained that prospective citizens would show up with an English competency certificate from ETS, but would not understand the language.

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