FLORIDA — An attorney for a Florida girl whose SAT retest score — which she claims showed a 330-point improvement over her first try — is being investigated over alleged signs of possible cheating said Friday he’s waiting for the test’s administrators to show him their evidence.
The test administrators, meanwhile, say initial evidence is on its way.
The girl, Miami Gardens high school senior Kamilah Campbell, cried foul after she learned her October retest result was being reviewed over concerns her answers aligned too closely with other test takers’.
“She is now being accused of cheating. And why? They say, ‘Oh, you just have to take our word for it, that there’s something that we see that’s wrong,'” prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday morning.
“They need to tell us (what they see).”
Campbell “studied harder than she’s ever studied in her life” to earn a higher score, and her ability to timely apply for scholarships and her preferred colleges hangs in the balance, he said.
A report with initial evidence that led to the review was sent earlier this week and is en route to Campbell, said Zach Goldberg, a spokesman for The College Board, which develops the test.
Goldberg declined to release details of the evidence to the news media, citing privacy concerns.
From 900 to 1230
Campbell, who wants to attend Florida State University and major in dance, has a 3.1 grade point average. She says her high school counselor suggested taking the SAT twice — once to get an idea of her weaknesses and a second time after further study.
She received her first score — a 900 — early last year.
“That score was just a basic baseline for me,” she told CNN on Friday. “So, from that point I just knew, ‘OK, well, I need to work on this, i need to work on that.'”
So her mom got her a tutor; she took online classes; and she got a copy of The Princeton Review prep book.
She retook the test in October. Then the testing company sent her a letter saying the score was being withheld and reviewed.
“Based on a preliminary review, there appears to be substantial evidence that your scores … are invalid,” it said. “Our preliminary concerns are based on substantial agreement between your answers on one or more scored sections of the test and those of other test takers. The anomalies noted above raise concerns about the validity of your scores.”
Campbell called the company, she said, and a representative told her she had a combined 1230 from the reading, writing and language, math and essay sections on her second effort. A score of 1600 is perfect.
Crump and Campbell held a news conference Wednesday in Florida, saying they believe the score is not being validated because Campbell improved 330 points.
The College Board has pushed back against this. A score is never flagged for review solely on score gains, Goldberg said.
What the College Board says it looks for
When it comes to Campbell’s case, Goldberg said he can discuss only details that she or her attorneys have made public. But he said the validity of scores can be examined for a number of factors, including:
• Whether a testing sheet resembles other another student’s, or those of a group of students, in an improbable way.
• Whether “cheat sheets” have been found circulating among students.
• What notes are revealed on testing booklets — which must be turned in, and which are the only paper on which students may make notes. Among things to look for: Whether the booklet, which usually shows students’ calculations or other notes, are blank.
As for Campbell’s case, the letter from The College board “never references score gains as a reason for her scores being under review,” Goldberg told CNN by email.
He emphasized what the initial letter to Campbell said: That there was “substantial agreement between (her) answers on one or more scored sections of the test and those of other test takers.”
Goldberg could not say how many tests have been flagged.
‘I did not cheat’
Campbell, in Wednesday’s news conference, said her score was valid.
“I did not cheat. I studied, and I focused to achieve my dream,” she said. “I worked so hard and did everything I could do.”
Crump, a Florida State graduate, got involved when other FSU alums asked him to help. He is steering Campbell and her mother through the process of demanding The College Board validate her score in time for her to be accepted into the Florida State dance program.
The company has two weeks to respond to a demand letter, he said. Reviews typically take four to six weeks, Goldberg said.
Crump reiterated Wednesday that they believe Campbell’s score is not being validated because she improved 330 points.
“Instead of celebrating her and celebrating her achievement, they are trying to assassinate her character, and we won’t stand for that,” he said.
Campbell and Crump now are involved in The College Board’s “consistent, established procedure to assess the validity of scores,” Goldberg said by email. It includes “the opportunity to provide relevant information, which is used to help make determinations about the validity of the test scores following a complete investigation.”
“At the end of the score validity process, we will only cancel scores if we are confident that there is substantial evidence to do so,” Goldberg continued, without offering a time frame. “We never cancel scores on score gains alone.”
Crump says time is of the essence for college decisions
Crump says a long review may hinder Campbell’s ability to access scholarships or her preferred colleges like Florida State.
“This 1230 (score) makes a big difference whether she’s going to get into the college of her dreams and whether she can afford it,” he said.
The College Board said Florida State has assured it that a student whose scores are delayed will be allowed to submit post-review scores.
She declines to retake the test
The College Board has said Campbell could, at any time, take the test a third time for free to validate the second. If the third test’s scores came within 120-150 points of the second in both the reading and math sections, the second test’s score would be confirmed.
Campbell said she would not take the test again.
“It’s unfair to ask her to to that,” Crump told CNN on Friday. “Just like the movie ‘Stand and Deliver,’ they want these students to be accountable to them, but this system is not accountable to anybody. … Well, this time, they’re going to have to be accountable as well.”