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A Bright Future Post-SAT Cheating Allegations

GNPS sending the right message with plans to engage students in ethics lessons

Having courageously brought to light the initial concerns of SAT cheating allegations, the Great Neck School District is now dealing with the aftermath of the controversy. Focusing on ethics lessons for their students, and addressing any potential college acceptance issues, the school district’s administrators and the Board of Education are pleased with recent published accolades for their actions and equally relieved that much of the continued publicity has not focused on the Great Neck Public Schools.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan told the Great Neck Record of a December article in the New York State School Boards Association publication that that lauded Great Neck, stating: “Kudos to officials at the Great Neck Union Free School District in Nassau County, who didn’t look the other way when, according to The New York Times, a student told a college counselor that someone was accepting money to take the SAT for other students. That prompted staff to compare SAT scores with student grade-point averages, and they noted a pattern … students who got unusually high SAT scores given their academic track records had opted to take the test off-site … It would have been easy to shrug this off as a mystery, but instead school officials contacted ETS (Education Testing Service, the organization that administers standardized testing such as the SAT exams), which conducted a handwriting analysis that showed one person had taken multiple tests … Great Neck did the right thing …”

Dr. Dolan said, still, there was much more for the school district to do for the students. First, “the big one,” will be to address the ethics issue. Dr. Dolan said that the ethics issue “confronts the world, confronts every student ... we can’t ignore it …” He explained that school educators are discussing the issues and will begin to engage students in conversations.

Dr. Dolan said that teachers and students will discuss “tough decisions and making the right choices.”

Taking into consideration all that has occurred, Dr. Dolan said that “this is a teachable moment … for us to be better than we might be.” And he noted that he hoped the conversations will continue in students’ homes. Dr. Dolan added that parents must talk to their children too, as, eventually, “you succeed based on who you are.”

Dr. Dolan then said that the second concern in the aftermath of the cheating allegation is the worry as to how the allegations and the adverse publicity would affect college acceptances this year. Happily, he told the Record that this year the school district has not seen a fall-off in the anticipated acceptances. “There is no discernible difference,” he assured.

Dr. Dolan, continued, admitting that “it’s not easy to predict, but we are pleased … we worried, but our guidance counselors are great advocates for our children.” Dr. Dolan said that “we have done well with early decision.”

And, as the school district begins to settle down, assess just what has happened, and make concrete educational plans for the future, Dr. Dolan is determined that “We are going to define ourselves … we’re on to the next chapter.” According to Dr. Dolan the Great Neck Public Schools will be concentrating on various levels of thinking skills, decision making, and honesty.

Equally proud of the school district’s integrity in the handling of the worrying allegations and now the plans for future educational experiences, Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz issued the following statement for the Record:

“The SAT scandal, as it’s referred to, has been challenging for those of us on the Board of Education, central administration, our administrators and teachers, and most of all for our students. It has thrust Great Neck into different public scrutiny than we are accustomed to, and we’ve been the target of much publicity and judging, both favorable and unfavorable.

“The start of a new year gives us a good opportunity to reflect on the past year. The decision to go public with our findings was one that we undertook with a heavy heart but with an awareness of our responsibilities as educators and moral leaders. Ben Franklin once said ‘How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.’ Upon reflection, we have been asked to make the subject of ethics an issue to develop. The SAT cheating situation gave us the opportunity to make recommendations to ETS in order to avoid these unfortunate actions in the future, as well as to have what we consider a ‘teachable moment’ for our student population.

“We are enormously proud of this district: our hardworking, dedicated and caring administrators and staff, and, above all, the majority of our students who, in the words of Spike Lee ‘do the right thing’ and continue to exemplify, on a daily basis, what makes the community of Great Neck great. “““