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E.T.S. Policies on Investigating Cheating Assailed

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Procedures used by the Educational Testing Service in investigating alleged cheating by high school students who take the Scholastic Assessment Test violate professional standards, a Boston College researcher has charged.

Walter M. Haney of the college's Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy, said this month that the testing service's procedures amount to "serious violations'' of testing standards established by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the American Psychological Association.

"They have been systematically violating these professional standards in hundreds, if not thousands, of cases over several years,'' Mr. Haney said in an interview.

Mr. Haney presented his findings at the A.E.R.A.'s annual conference in Atlanta.

The E.T.S. has failed to adequately explain its investigation procedures to students whose scores are under scrutiny, he charged, and to take into account evidence presented by those students in their defense.

Score Jumps Targeted

Mr. Haney's study is based on his personal involvement in the case of one student accused of cheating, whom he does not identify. It also reflects the court transcript of another accused student, Brian Dalton, who successfully sued the E.T.S. last year to release his test scores.

The students, like other targets of E.T.S. probes, were investigated after their scores were substantially higher than previous times they had taken the test. Students typically are allowed to take the S.A.T. more than once and use the best score.

In both cases studied by Mr. Haney, the students provided the E.T.S. with explanations about why their test scores jumped. Both students were ill at the time of their first test, took test-coaching courses between their first and second tests, and had grade-point averages that indicated that their higher second score was more compatible with their school work than their first score, he said.

Moreover, Mr. Haney said, the testing service does not reveal exactly what criteria it uses to decide on the basis of an investigation that a student has cheated.

In a statement, the E.T.S. said: "We cannot find any sound reasons to accept Mr. Haney's particular interpretation. We would welcome and cooperate with any review by'' the A.E.R.A., the N.C.M.E., and the A.P.A.

Rather than investigate scores with large discrepancies, Mr. Haney argued, a better way to curb cheating would be to develop methods of preventing it.

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