Testing the Limits of Academic Fraud in College Sports

Two stories caught my attention this week about standardized-test fraud, making me wonder whether it was time for the NCAA to take a closer look at potentially bogus ACT and SAT scores.

The first article, a sweeping investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, examined improbable swings in test scores among school districts nationwide. Then yesterday the College Board cracked down in response to a cheating scandal last year involving 50 students. The group that administers the ACT and SAT announced that high-school students who impersonate someone else when taking the tests could face criminal prosecution, the Chronicle‘s Eric Hoover reports.

Impersonating another student is apparently not the most common form of cheating on standardized tests. Collaboration among test takers and roaming eyeballs could be bigger problems, Hoover reports.

While the College Board appeared to focus on rogue students who cheat the system, the implied complicity of administrators in tampering with test scores in the AJC‘s story was, to me, even more disturbing. Both made me think about how much sway elite athletes have over their classmates and their schools.

People who work with academically challenged college football and basketball players frequently complain about high-school grade inflation, and wonder how certain athletes could have ever achieved the ACT or SAT scores they did. If fewer problem students came their way, their jobs would certainly be more manageable.

With the proposed stricter initial-eligibility requirements the NCAA put in place last year, some critics say college sports is increasingly ripe for fraud in these areas. Sounds like another good investigation in the making.

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