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ACT may audit education centers accused of cheating

By AMY HE in New York ( Updated: 2016-08-11 14:50

ACT Inc, which administers the ACT college-entrance exam, may be auditing 200 education centers it owns that have been accused of cheating by international students after it laid off its head of test security, according to a Reuters report. The ACT is the most popular college admissions exam, and ACT Inc owns the Global Assessment Certificate program, a college preparatory program for students whose first language is not English.

Several GAC centers, all of which are operated by a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of ACT, have been accused of rampant cheating, and they may potentially be audited to see how big the cheating problem is, according to Reuters.

This comes as the company laid off Rachel Schoenig, its head of test security, after Schoenig's 14-member team suggested tightening security measures at testing sites around the world. In June, the ACT exam was canceled in Hong Kong and South Korea after a test was leaked.

ACT Inc, based in Iowa City, Iowa, declined a request for comment on whether the potential auditing and layoff of its test security head will have an immediate impact on students in Asia who wish to take the test, but said that the not-for-profit organization takes test security "very seriously". "There will always be cheating attempts and incidents around high-stakes testing. ACT has layers of test security measures and procedures in place to deter and detect cheating attempts before, during and after testing, and we will continue to work to regularly improve our processes," the organization said in a statement provided to China Daily.

"As an example, we recently indicated our intention to begin computer-adaptive testing in all international test centers starting in fall 2017 to help improve test security," it said. It also said that it investigates all reports received about cheating and takes action when claims are substantiated. The June exam cancellation was announced hours before the test was to be administered, which affected 5,500 students at 56 different test centers in Hong Kong and South Korea. The next test won't be administered until September.

The ACT overtook the SAT as the most popular college admissions test for students seeking to apply to US colleges, and both exams have been subject to cheating scandals in the last several years.

The SAT, administered by the New York-based College Board, had its own round of cancellations in January because of an exam breach. Students taking the test across Macao and the Chinese mainland were affected.

The ACT exam, like the SAT, tests high school students for reading comprehension, math skills, and writing and language. The ACT also tests students in science; the SAT does not. Both tests last between two to three hours long and are given several times a year across the world. Scores from the ACT and SAT are used for admission and merit-based scholarships. Whichever exam a student chooses to take, they have always been considered a "high stakes" part of the college admissions process, which education experts have criticized for not being a true determinant of a student's college preparedness and for which parents spend thousands of dollars on to help their children prepare.

"There are issues with standardized tests, and most of them have to do with the fact that they're so very high stakes," said Teresa Fishman, director of the International Center for Academic Integrity.

"Instead of taking a broad look at a student and looking at them holistically, often the schools just look at one number and give an incredible amount of weight to that number. So there are overwhelming reasons that make those tests more subject to really organized attempts at cheating, because the stakes are so very high," she said.

Chinese students have increasingly made headlines in the US for their involvement in cheating scams in the US, in which they would pay for someone else to take the tests for them.

Last year, a Chinese male was deported for participating in a cheating ring where impostor test-takers used fake Chinese passports to take standardized exams of those who paid them to do so.

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