Cheating Scandal Prompts New SAT and ACT Security Measures

In the wake of an embarrassing cheating scandal involving at least 20 Long Island, N.Y., high school students, the makers of the SAT and ACT college entrance exams are tightening rules nationwide. Significantly, students will now be required to provide a photograph when signing up for the tests that officials will check against student identification on testing day.

The SAT and ACT are used by virtually every American college when making admissions decisions.

Last fall, the Nassau County District Attorney charged five teenagers with taking the tests for other students and accused 15 others with paying them $500 to $3,600 to take the tests, The New York Times reports. As many as 50 students may have been involved, the district attorney, Kathleen M. Rice, told the Times.

According to Rice, the changes are meant to send a message to others who might consider cheating.

“They will be caught, and they will be held accountable,” she told The Times. “The old system did not ensure that.”

Students will be required to upload or mail in their photograph and the image will be printed on their admission ticket. Proctors will compare the printed photograph with photo identification presented the day of the test, as well as the student’s actual face.

The new photo requirement, along with other changes, will take effect in the fall.

From the Cold Case Files, a Child Who Shouldn’t Have to be Alone

Brooke Silverthorn

Jessica is 17 years old and has learned how to take care of herself. She doesn’t quite understand, though, that she shouldn’t have to.

Jessica has been in the state custody of Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) since October 2007 when she disclosed that her father had been sexually molesting her for the past two years. After she and her brother and sister were removed, her younger sister also disclosed that their father and their mother had sexually molested her. Both of her parents have been criminally charged, but the cases are still pending after more than three years. This frustrates Jessica.

 In March 2010, a Georgia juvenile court terminated both the mother’s and father’s parental rights. Jessica is now at great risk of aging out of foster care as a legal orphan in less than a year.

Understandably, Jessica struggles with post traumatic stress syndrome and depression. She doesn’t let it hold her back though. She is an A/B student, plans on attending college and has already taken the ACT exam. She thinks she may be able to enroll in some college classes her second semester of 12th grade. She’s contemplated her future and has decided that she wants to be a DFCS case manager so that she can help kids in her future. She has a job through the Teen Work Program where she works with kids today.

Jessica appears to have positive coping strategies. She channels her emotions into a great desire to help others, partly by being a comedian! Jessica has made a couple of comedy videos in which she performs stand up. Her case manager told us that Jessica is very funny. Look out Ellen DeGeneres.

Since 2009, we have reviewed many DFCS cases on the Cold Case List and all have affected us greatly. However, there was something about Jessica’s story that stood out. In the paper file was an essay that she had written about why she doesn’t want to be adopted. Her reasoning was both straightforward and selfless, not unlike the young lady herself. She wrote that she sometimes thinks about being adopted but has decided that adoption is not for her. She can make it on her own, she wrote. She goes on to say that parents looking to adopt a child should focus on younger kids who “need parents more than she does.” She has people in her life who love and support her and that’s enough for her.

Michelle Barclay

Reading her words made us think about the amazing young woman she is and the great sadness she has had to endure. Despite the sadness, Jessica is willing to sacrifice her own permanency for another in need. She may be able to take care of herself; in fact, we believe she will do great things in her life. But she shouldn’t have to do it alone. Child welfare is hard and it is emotionally taxing to the professionals in the field. But when I think about Jessica’s story, we realize why we keep doing this work – because we have an opportunity to help children NOT to have to do it alone. We have more work do on Jessica’s case.

*Jessica is not her real name, but her story is real. This child was part of a statewide review in Georgia called the Cold Case Project. The Cold Case Project is being conducted  in full partnership and transparency with the Division of Family and Children Services.  The project is conducted in collaboration with  Casey Family Program.


Senate Committee To Reschedule Code Rewrite Hearing

The clock is ticking for supporters of Georgia’s long-awaited juvenile code rewrite.  Crossover day — the critical mid-point in the legislative session, when Senate bills move over to the House of Representatives and House bills transition to the Senate — is now a little less than a week away. So far Senate Bill 127, also known as the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, has not yet made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) and if it does not do so before that critical deadline, it won’t be able to advance any further during this legislative session. That would be a major blow for supporters who have been involved in the rewrite process since 2004.

The committee was scheduled to discuss the measure at a hearing Wednesday. But the panel ran out of time after five hours, though members did manage to have extended discussions of several other bills. Representatives from the many stakeholder groups involved in the code rewrite, including JUST Georgia, the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Department of Juvenile Justices (DJJ) sat through the marathon meeting, waiting to no avail for the bill to top the agenda. Most of them left at 5 p.m. when it was announced that the bill would not be discussed that day.

Barton Child Law and Policy Center Policy Director Kirsten Widner, who has been leading the legislative effort on the measure, says it is not uncommon for committees to be jam-packed with discussions on several bills as the critical midpoint in the session approaches. She is now working with committee chairman Sen. Bill Hamrick (R- Carrollton) on establishing a time to reschedule the code hearing, ideally for some time later this week. Keep checking for updates.

The new code — the first in four decades — was introduced in 2009,  but it failed to make it to the floor for a vote by the end of the two-year legislative term. It was reintroduced on February 23 as SB 127, also known as “the Children’s Code.” If passed, the code rewrite would comprehensively revise Title 15, Chapter 11 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to juvenile courts and the cases they hear. Throughout 2009 and 2010, the SJC and a specially appointed subcommittee reviewed the bill in detail, and a group of stakeholders met to agree on issues that needed refinement in the Act.