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Children can get punished for improving test scores too much

With January finally here, many Florida students are vowing to improve themselves for the new year. Some may want to bump their Cs up to As, while others are still trying to decide which college will be the right choice for them. The path to improvement may be a little more straightforward for many students, as college preparation tests such as the SAT and ACT use their scores to demonstrate where the student’s strengths and weaknesses lie before they retake it or settle for it before graduation.

Even though teachers and parents heavily encourage students to improve themselves academically, they do not always receive rewards for doing so. In fact, there have been multiple instances where a student might improve themselves too much and end up in trouble. An example of this can be found within a recent story about a Miami Gardens teen and her SAT score.

Questionable comeback

Back in October, a senior at a high school in Miami took what should have been her last SAT test before applying to Florida State University. Unfortunately for her, the Educational Testing Service officials find it odd on how much she improved from her junior year. Back then, she scored around a 900. If she was going to apply to Florida State University, she needed a score over 1,200. During her second test, she managed to reach that goal and supposedly made it over 1,200, but now she faces accusations of cheating since improving test scores by over 300 points seemed too suspicious.

The Miami Times did interview the student and several of her colleagues who claim that she worked extra hard to improve her scores from the last time and worked with several teachers and tutors to do so. She doesn’t understand why they are punishing her when other students have also made large improvements between sessions. Because of this delay, she was not able to apply for Florida State University’s summer term admission deadline.

Common accusations

While this was notable enough to make local news, students accused of cheating on the SAT or ACT aren’t rare occurrences. If no one is caught peeking off someone’s test or a device during the testing, officials base their accusations off of two primary factors: How much the student improved from the last time, and how similar their answers are to other test takers sitting next to them. They only do this if the number of identical answers are “unusually” high.

While The Miami Times was not able to get any feedback from the Educational Testing officials, the officials did state in a letter to the student that she had a “substantial agreement” between the answers on her and another student’s test in one or more sections.

While it is understandable why the Educational Testing Service has continued this method to determine cheating for decades, it is still a flawed process that could lead to students getting falsely accused and held back on their academic aspirations. Those with children that face similar accusations should consider what legal options they have at their disposal to determine what the best course of action to take is.

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