The architect of the college admissions scandal, William ‘Rick’ Singer, characterized his process as using a “side door” to get students into a college.

Athletic Admissions

Singer’s use of athletic admissions has been widely exposed in the weeks since the scandal.  Multiple colleges have terminated coaches and others who were involved.  Some schools, according to an article in Inside Higher Ed, have already outlined new procedures regarding admissions for student athletes.

Aside from using athletic admissions, early in his career of helping students cheat, Singer hired Harvard grad Mark Riddell.  Riddell took the SAT in the place of students Singer was being paid to help.  Back in 2012, the SAT uncovered a cheating scandal on Long Island and both testing agencies made changes.  Among the changes: the registration process was updated to require a photo.  In addition, high schools would now receive all scores, and stand-by registration was ended.  Singer had to come up with a different plan.

He found a new way in the side door:  bribe administrators at testing sites.

Cheating on the SAT by using Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

That scenario is hard to imagine at a local high school where hundreds of students converge on a Saturday AM to take a test.  Instead, Singer used special sites that administered tests to students with disabilities receiving accommodations.  According to a March 25 Wall Street Journal article, Singer ‘“told parents to have their children pretend to have learning disabilities to secure a doctor’s note allowing them special accommodations such as extra time.”’

Most parents whose children have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) know that identifying a disability and determining accommodations is not a fast process.  Moreover, doing so to obtain special accommodations for the SAT or ACT would suggest a couple things.  First, a doctor making a diagnosis would need to know what is required to receive accommodations.  Second, since the student’s school needs to communicate with the testing organization, someone at the school would have to be involved.  Many private schools don’t accommodate disabled students.  Possibly, unfamiliar with accommodations, they would rubber stamp anything from a doctor.  According to the College Board, students may wait as long as seven months to be approved for accommodations.  Obviously, these plans were set in motion early junior year, if not before.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer disclosed that he bribed test administrators at two locations, one in Houston and one in West Hollywood.  Students went there to take their exams with accommodations.  They would either take the test with help from Mark Riddell, he would take the test, or he would correct their answers after.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, Singer is quoted as saying in a court document that ‘“The only way that the scheme could work was if I controlled the proctor and the site coordinator.”’

The Sad Truth

The notion of using a disability to gain an advantage in testing is insidious.  Students with disabilities and their parents often struggle for years to ensure the students receive proper accommodations for school and testing.  Students lying to a doctor in order to qualify for accommodations is unforgivable.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the greatest loss here is for students who weren’t admitted to these colleges because a spot wrongfully went to a student whose parents bought it for them.  It’s hard to believe most of these students were unaware of what was being done to secure their admission.  Where was their conscience?   And what about those parents?  Where was their conscience?


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