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Higher Ed Roundup....... November 17, 1997

New York Times series critical of Educational Testing Service
A recent two-part series that appeared on the front pages of The New York Times contends that the world's largest testing organization, Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT and many exams used for professional licenses and certification, has engaged in several instances of mismanagement and poor judgment.

Following a four-month examination of ETS, the Times cited numerous examples in which ETS discovered cheating by test takers on its exams but, according to the Times, "failed to take aggressive steps in time to ensure the integrity of its tests." In one of the strongest examples, the Times said that ETS kept quiet its discovery that copies of an exam taken by those seeking to be certified as teachers had been widely circulated throughout southern Louisiana, complete with correct answers to the 145 questions.

According to the Times, ETS refused to disclose publicly the nature of the problem, keeping secret the possibility that unqualified teachers were employed in schools throughout Louisiana. Instead, ETS quietly contacted approximately 200 teachers who had passed the exam to say they needed to retake the test in order to "confirm" their earlier scores.

Senior ETS officials told the Times they had been as forthcoming as possible, given the constraints of privacy and test integrity. "We don't think we have the evidence to say effectively to the state who cheated and who didn't cheat," ETS president Nancy Cole told the Times. "But we're pretty sure that we got rid of the bulk of the scores that included most of the people who cheated."

The Times also criticized the nonprofit status of ETS, saying the service has evolved from a small nonprofit educational institution into the world's largest testing company. It administers 9 million examinations a year, controls for-profit subsidiaries, has a reserve fund of $91 million, and reported revenue of $411 million last year.

(Source: The New York Times, 9/28/97 and 9/30/97.)

Educational Testing Service responds to allegations
The Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT and is the world's largest testing company, is hiring corporate investigators to conduct a wide review of its security procedures for tests. Following a damaging series in The New York Times that accused ETS of security lapses involving several of its tests, ETS announced that it had hired Kroll Associates, a leading investigations company based in New York City, to conduct the inquiry. ETS also has hired the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center to learn more about opportunities to cheat in its test centers.

ETS spokesman Tom Ewing told Academe Today that, prior to the Times series, ETS was already aware of security problems in the testing process but that the series helped prompt the review. He also said the series' charges that ETS tried to hide incidents of cheating are unfair.

(Sources: The New York Times, 10/22/97; Academe Today, 10/23/97.)

Computer use widespread on campuses
Nearly one-third of colleges courses use e-mail, according to a survey by the Campus Computing Project. The report also says that user support is the top problem facing campus-computing administrators, and that 40 percent of campuses require students to exhibit competence in using computers.

(Source: Academe Today, 10/13/97)

Reprinted, with permission, from CASE Flash Points.