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Transcontinental Cheating

Most people who apply to graduate school are ready and willing to work hard once they get there. A few, however, aren't willing to study hard to get there.

Study courses for standardized exams for graduate school typically involve about 40 hours of classroom instruction. The American Test Center in El Monte, Calif., promised something "unique." No study was required, and the test taker was promised a terrific score - for a fee of up to $6,000.

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George Kobayashi, head of the American Test Center, has been arrested and charged with helping students cheat. The scheme, which allegedly involved test answers inscribed onto pencils, took advantage of the three-hour time difference on both coasts. Experts are said to have taken the tests in New York and phoned the answers to the West Coast.

There have been similar cases over the years, according to the Educational Testing Service. But this latest incident provides ETS with a good opportunity to look closely at the way it administers the tests. It gives the same test, with the same answers, on the same day everywhere in the country.

It's also an opportunity for schools to reexamine the heavy emphasis many of them place on standardized test scores. We should all ask why some test takers would be willing to spend $6,000 for a good score, even if it meant breaking the law.

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