Mo. Bill Would Crack Down on Fraudulent Test-Taking

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Any student caught cheating on a college-entrance exam faces immediate cancellation of his test scores and typically needs to take the exam again to meet college-admissions requirements.

But if a third party contributes to the exam fraud by taking the test for another person, he or she often goes unpunished. Missouri state Sen. Steve Ehlmann would like to change that.

Sen. Steve Ehlmann

The Republican legislator has introduced a bill that would, in part, make it a legally punishable misdemeanor in his state for a person to take an official examination, such as the SAT or ACT, in place of someone else.

"If another student does the cheating, a school can expel them both," Mr. Ehlmann said. "But if the person taking the test illegally is not a student, there's no way to punish them."

Of the roughly 1.8 million students who take the SAT I: Reasoning Test every year, fewer than 200 are found guilty of exam fraud, said Kevin Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service, which administers the test.

Out of that group, the most common form of cheating is copying, not impersonation, he said.

If Missouri lawmakers approve Mr. Ehlmann's bill, the state will become the 17th to pass a law addressing academic dishonesty, according to Amy Cook, a policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States, based in Denver. It is unclear how many of these laws would apply to cheating on the SAT or ACT, Ms. Cook said.

On-Line Essays

Mr. Ehlmann's proposal includes another provision, geared solely for postsecondary students, that would make it criminally punishable for any party to knowingly distribute course materials to be turned in as a student's original work.

The Internet has spurred a proliferation of on-line term paper providers through which students can access papers on topics ranging from international oil pollution to Alfred Hitchcock. The companies' World Wide Web sites typically include disclaimers that insist the papers are for "research purposes only."

New York state legislators are also weighing a proposal geared specifically to prohibit any sales, on-line or otherwise, of theses or term papers.

"A student can buy a prepared term paper off the Internet and turn it in for a grade," Mr. Ehlmann said. "If the student is caught, he obviously flunks, but the supplier of the paper faces no penalty."

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