Reuters has now followed its exposé of widespread cheating on the new SAT with news of a massive security breach at the College Board:
Just months after the College Board unveiled the new SAT this March, a person with access to material for upcoming versions of the redesigned exam provided Reuters with hundreds of confidential test items. The questions and answers include 21 reading passages – each with about a dozen questions – and about 160 math problems…
To ensure the materials were authentic, Reuters provided copies to the College Board. In a subsequent letter to the news agency, an attorney for the College Board said publishing any of the items would have a dire impact, “destroying their value, rendering them unusable, and inflicting other injuries on the College Board and test takers.”
College Board spokeswoman Sandra Riley said in a statement that the organization was moving to contain any damage from the leak. The College Board is “taking the test forms with stolen content off of the SAT administration schedule while we continue to monitor and analyze the situation,” she said.
Riley declined to say whether those steps would involve cancelling or delaying upcoming tests. The next sitting of the SAT is October 1.
The breach is “a serious criminal matter,” Riley wrote. “A thorough investigation is ongoing, therefore our comments must be limited.” The College Board did not grant requests for interviews with CEO Coleman and other employees named in this article.
The SAT is used by U.S. universities to help evaluate more than a million college applicants a year, and so a major security lapse could cause havoc for admissions officers and students alike.
That College Board security was breached is “a problem of a massive level,” one that could “put into question the credibility of the exam,” said Neal Kingston, who heads the Achievement and Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas.
Importantly, the article also makes mention ETS’s greatly diminished role in the new SAT, both in terms of the test itself and in terms of test security. The College Board’s severing of its traditional relationship with ETS and its decision to handle so many aspects of the test itself have been largely overlooked in most media reports, so the fact that the article even discusses those issues in itself is noteworthy.
If the College Board cannot use all of the items intended for inclusion on the October exam — items whose quality and validity can already be considered questionable — how on earth can it create new ones in time? In the past, every question that appeared on an actual SAT was field-tested for more than a year, benchmarked in every possible way. Now, however, that sort of rigorous screening appears to be a thing of the past.
Also, let’s not forget that October is a QAS month. if the October test is delayed or compromised, what will that mean for the release of scores and/or the actual exam? The May QAS exam, which normally would have been released within six weeks of being administered, will reportedly not be made available until the end of August because, as one blog commenter was told, the College Board needs to “insure [sic?] accuracy.” Will the October test not be released until December?
How many more scandals like this can the College Board withstand before something starts to change?