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Posted at 12:13 PM ET, 02/14/2012

Admissions 101: How badly do school test-tampering scandals hurt college applicants?

Students at Emma Hutchinson School in Atlanta leave after the day's classes July 13, 2011. Hutchinson is a year-round school that was identified as one of 44 schools involved in a test-tampering scandal. (John Bazemore - AP)
D.C. schools officials have been narrowing and delaying what they say is an investigation of how more than 100 schools could have shown students mysteriously erasing large numbers of wrong answers and replacing them with right answers on annual standardized tests. The same erasure patterns have turned up in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Experts say this seems to be the work of principals tampering with exams after students have gone home. Several confessed to such activity in Atlanta.

The reputations of those cities have suffered, and are unlikely to improve soon if school officials resist intense investigations of all schools flagged for erasures — which is what the District seems to have been doing.

School and school district reputations are important in college admissions. Selective colleges and universities are more likely to believe the information they are receiving from school officials with a history of candor and clarity in their transcripts and other data they provide. Do tampering and cheating scandals tarnish the credibility of the grade point averages and course descriptions that districts send to colleges? If I am a student from a district with its testing system under a cloud, am I likely to be at a disadvantage when seeking admission to my first-choice college?

This is not an issue I have seen explored in any of the discussions of test manipulation. Do you think it has relevance? Keep in mind that the alleged test-tampering in D.C. and the proven test tampering in Atlanta involve corruption that is much more widespread than the occasional incidents of students cheating on the SAT that get headlines.

By  |  12:13 PM ET, 02/14/2012

Categories:  Admissions 101 | Tags:  testing

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