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ACT to Inspect Education Centers after Cheating Reports

FILE - Students retaking college entrance exams attend class at Deung Yong Moon Boarding School in Kwangju, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Seoul, Oct. 30, 2012. Operators of the ACT college entrance exam on Saturday canceled the test for all of Sou
FILE - Students retaking college entrance exams attend class at Deung Yong Moon Boarding School in Kwangju, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Seoul, Oct. 30, 2012. Operators of the ACT college entrance exam on Saturday canceled the test for all of Sou
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The maker of a popular college entrance exam reportedly is dismissing its head of test security. The Reuters news service says the not-for-profit group, ACT Inc., now plans to audit about 200 education centers.

The moves come after Reuters reported widespread cheating in an ACT–owned college preparatory program for international students.

Rachel Schoenig heads a security team for thousands of ACT exam centers worldwide. She will leave ACT Inc. next month, said individuals with knowledge of the move. It is not clear if the organization will replace her.

In June, a test released without the permission of ACT, Inc. forced it to cancel exams in Hong Kong and South Korea.

Schoenig's team repeatedly proposed ways to improve security overseas before the test cancellations. However, ACT officials rejected those suggestions, Reuters reported.

Several other top security officials left ACT Inc. recently.

ACT spokesperson Ed Colby said he did not want to talk with Reuters about the changes. But he added, “Nothing has changed regarding ACT’s commitment to test security and to providing a fair and level playing field for all examinees, nor to our ongoing efforts to improve our testing and security procedures.”

The College Board

ACT's main competitor in college entrance exams is the College Board, which administers the SAT. Thousands of American colleges use the ACT and SAT when judging students for admission.

The SAT, like the ACT, continues to have security problems. Last week, hundreds of questions for future SAT exams were made public without the College Board’s permission.

A College Board spokesperson said the organization is investigating "a serious criminal matter."

Reuters reported in March that test-preparation businesses in East Asia had found security weaknesses in the SAT. Often, students overseas are given questions from tests already used in the United States. The test-preparation businesses harvest information from the earlier exams, enabling students to memorize questions that are recycled for international versions of the SAT.

The Global Assessment Certificate Program

Last month, reports showed cheating in the ACT–owned Global Assessment Certificate Program (GAC). The program has about 5,000 students, mostly in Asia.

Seven students who attended three GAC centers in China told about how school officials and exam proctors ignored the cheating. The students said those individuals sometimes even helped students cheat on the ACT.

Eight teachers or administrators who have worked at seven different GAC centers also described cheating.

Andrew Todd is the leader of the ACT office that oversees the GAC program. He said he was "a bit shocked" by news of the cheating.

ACT Inc. policy bars test preparation businesses from giving the ACT to students. The reason for this policy is that the businesses could easily provide information about the test to their students.

But six GAC centers – five in China and one in South Korea – had administered the ACT while also selling test preparation services.

Todd said he did not remember such a policy. "If it is a policy, I should have known about it," he said.

Admissions offices react to the reports

Most of the students in the GAC program take the ACT. The GAC program is recognized by admissions offices at more than 60 colleges in the United States. Some colleges give credit for completing the GAC program.

Todd said ACT Education Solutions had contacted the colleges affiliated with the GAC program and told them "we are dealing with the situation."

Officials at several universities contacted by Reuters said they were concerned about the reports of cheating.

Katharine Johnson Suski is the director of admissions at Iowa State University. She said she plans to examine the success rates of GAC students.

In an email, she wrote "We will also discuss the steps we will take moving forward and whether we are comfortable continuing our relationship with GAC and, if so, in what ways."

I’m John Russell.

John Russell adapted this Reuters article for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

audit – v. to check the financial records of (a business or person)

facilitate – v. to make (something) easier

proctor – n. the person who watch students who are taking an examination

recycling – n. to use (something) again

administer – v. to give (a drug, medicine, or treatment, or test) to someone

commitment – n. a stated desire or promise