Last week, 20 arrests were made in NY in connection to an academic scandal involving standardized testing. Five test takers, and fifteen “payers” have been identified for their involvement in a scam to cheat on the SAT’s and the ACT’s. The test takers were paid by other students to take these paramount tests for them, ensuring them a better chance at getting accepted to the colleges of their choice.
Standardized tests are seen as a way to truly gauge a student’s academic abilities and possible achievement in the future. Although there are theories that these tests may not be an accurate diagnostic measure because many believe there are ethnic and cultural biases in the tests, they are still seen as the fairest way to see how much a student knows. GPA’s, grades, and extracurricular activities can be influenced by student’s financial background, relationships with teachers, and learning style. Standardized tests are the one quantifiable measure that can be used to compare students from different geographic backgrounds, and to see who is the best candidate for a particular school.
The fact that large amounts of students were able to cheat on these tests is alarming to many. If students can pay others to take the test for them, the SAT/ACT’s are just another way that people of higher economic status can get ahead of people with fewer resources.
Similar to the controversy about Adderall and cheating, this issue can be applied to Rawls’ concept of inequality and fairness. According to Rawls, freedom and equality require fairness. If a test that can change your entire future can be cheated on, the playing field is no longer level. Because this test was a measure of intelligence, naturally smarter students were already at an advantage. However, now less intelligent students can get ahead of their smarter and poorer classmates by cheating. Is there any way to fairly test students? Is there any measure that can not be cheated on? Can things ever be as fair as Rawls would imagine?