Video: SAT cheating scandal rocks community

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    >>> cheating scandal that rocked one new york community and it comes as days before an estimated 700,000 high school students are set to take the grueling test this weekend. we're in great neck, new york with more. mara, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning. the s.a.t. is considered the most important test a student will take in high school . here at great neck north high school the students are considered the best and the brightest in the country but this morning their community is feeling the sting of a scandal after six current and former students are accused of fraudulently having a classmate take the test for them. prosecutors say 19-year-old sam eshaghoff was paid between $ 1500 and $2500 to take the s.a.t. test for students. he is a graduate of great neck north high school and now a sophomore at emory university . prosecutors say he used fake i.d.s to impersonate the six students including one female at testing centers where the students wouldn't be known. the s.a.t. 's top score is 2400. the national average is about 1500 . eshaghoff scored well above that average.

    >> scores were 2220, 2210, 2140, 2180. what these six kids did was they took an opportunity away from every other child.

    >> reporter: four of the accused are already in college. two are still enrolled at great neck north. in recent years it has been named one of the country's top 100 high schools .

    >> if they have the money on hand and i guess they can, like have the opportunity, it's just not that surprising.

    >> reporter: while some students are not surprised by the scandal, others say the pressure to get into college is too intense.

    >> i feel it's really competitive and really hard.

    >> reporter: students' s.a.t. scores can be critical for their future.

    >> i think the pressure on students right now to get into very good schools is really great. the students who get into elite universities have a better chance to get into elite grad schools which means they have a better chance of getting high paying jobs later on. so there is a lot at stake and they understand it.

    >> reporter: eshaghoff faces up to four years in prison if convicted. he has pled not guilty. his attorney says the case is not a matter for criminal court .

    >> even if something happened it happened within school grounds. it was when they were under age. the issue should be handled administratively within the school.

    >> reporter: the students accused of paying eshaghoff are facing unspecified misdemeanor charges and are not identified due to their ages. the investigation has been widened to two other area high schools . ann?

    >> thank you so much for your reporting on this story.

msnbc.com
updated 9/28/2011 12:06:38 PM ET 2011-09-28T16:06:38

A college student flew home to New York to impersonate high schoolers who paid him to take the SAT on their behalf, and even took the exam twice in one weekend under different identities, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Between 2010 and 2011, six students at Long Island's Great Neck North High School paid Sam Eshaghoff, 19, between $1,500 and $2,500 each to take the SAT for them, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.

All seven students involved were arrested for their alleged roles in the cheating scandal Tuesday morning. Eshaghoff faces up to four years in prison, NBCNewYork.com reported. The six who are charged with hiring him face misdemeanor charges; their names are not being made public due to their ages.

Eshaghoff graduated in 2010 from Great Neck North, a public school that ranks among the nation's best, according to FOX News, with notable alumni including filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Eshaghoff spent his freshman year at the University of Michigan, then transferred to Emory University in Atlanta sophomore year.

He flew back to Long Island on numerous weekends to take the SAT, where the high school students had registered at different schools so their faces wouldn't be recognized, prosecutors said. Eshaghoff presented a forged driver's license with his picture and the paying student's name each time he took the test, they said.

A perfect SAT score is 2400. Eshaghoff scored between 2140 and 2220 for the students, New York Daily News said.

At least once, Eshaghoff impersonated two students in one weekend, flying home from school to take the test twice, Rice said.

"Colleges look for the best and brightest students, yet these six defendants tried to cheat the system and may have kept honest and qualified students from getting into their dream school," Rice said.

Eshaghoff also allegedly took the test for a seventh student, a girl, but did not make her pay, the Daily News reported.

Scores didn't match up with GPAs
High school faculty had become suspicious when they heard rumors of students paying a third party to take the SAT for them early this year, prosecutors said. They managed to nail down the six suspected high schoolers by comparing past academic performance to SAT scores of students who had taken the test at a different school.

The giveaway was "large discrepancies between [the six students'] academic performance records and their SAT scores," said Rice, reported FOX. She said administrators were able to track the tests to Eshaghoff after a handwriting analysis.

The district attorney's office said it is also investigating whether Eshaghoff took the exam for other students, and whether cheating has taken place at at least two other high schools in the county.

"Colleges look for the best and brightest students, yet these six defendants tried to cheat the system and may have kept honest and qualified students from getting into their dream school," Rice said.

Eshaghoff's bond was set at $1,000. The other six were released on their own recognizance.

Eshaghoff's attorney, Matin Emouna, said his client is not guilty. "He has cooperated with the investigation, and he denies the charges," Emouna said, according to FOX.

Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT, was unable to provide documentation of cheating to prosecutors, citing a computer crash, according to NBC. If students are suspected of cheating, ETS's policy is not to notify colleges or high schools, but simply to cancel the score and offer a refund or a chance to take the test again for free, NBC reported.

Great Neck School District released a statement saying it "does not tolerate cheating" and remains "committed to cooperating with law enforcement in the matter."

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