Within seven months, Kamilah Campbell improved her SAT scores by more than 300 points. But instead of celebrating the impressive achievement, the Florida teenager has been accused of cheating and was told that her test results are invalid. Now, her family is taking legal action against The College Board and Educational Testing Services (ETS), which administer the nationwide test.
“Kamilah explained that she took the SAT for the first time on March 10 with no preparation. Between then and October, she practiced diligently, working with her teachers, receiving tutoring, and regularly accessing the preparatory resources of Khan Academy,” reads a statement from Campbell’s lawyer, high-profile civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, reports The Root.
Campbell originally received a score of 900 out of 1600 after her first attempt at the college entrance exam. The second time her score jumped to 1230. The South Florida high school student credits her impressive improvement to months of prep that included working with a hired tutor, taking online classes, and using The Princetown Review SAT prep book as a study guide.
“I did not cheat. I studied, and I focused to achieve my dream,” Campbell said Wednesday at a press conference, according to CNN. “I worked so hard and did everything I could do.”
Rather than celebrating her achievement, ETS sent her a letter stating her SAT results will not be released until a pending review. As a result, Crump says Campbell’s ability to apply for certain scholarships and her dream college, Florida State University, may be hindered.
“We are writing to you because based on a preliminary review, there appears to be substantial evidence that your scores … are invalid,” read the letter, reports The Hill. “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.”
Crump, however, argues that ETS’ accusations are an attack on her integrity, intelligence, and opportunity to realize her dreams of going to college.
“It is not for ETS, a private corporation, to define the limits of human achievement and betterment,” he said. “In concluding that the only way Kamilah could have improved her score so substantially was by cheating, ETS defamed Kamilah’s character and replaced what should have been appropriate and motivating personal pride with shame and confusion.”
He added, “Although Kamilah provided a sound explanation and evidence for her improvement, ETS has refused to relent, denying this promising and dedicated student access to a college education, the funds to pay for it, and fulfillment of her dreams.”
A spokesperson at The College Board told BLACK ENTERPRISE that scores are never flagged for score gains, alone. Rather, score reviews are triggered by a “range of factors that cast doubt on the validity of a score,” says the non-for-profit. “We give the benefit of the doubt to the student and we never hold or cancel scores unless there is strong evidence that the scores are invalid.”
The College Board went on to list the types of evidence that suggest invalidity, which include:
- A student’s answer sheet resembles not only another student’s, but a group of students who have very similar answers, including the same wrong answers.
- The same group includes students whose scores have been canceled for irregularities in the past. The group of students’ answers match not only one another, but an answer key or “cheat sheet” that has been found circulating among students.
- There is an absence of any scratch work in the testing booklet.
- Each of these factors and other similar evidence are rare. In combination, they are extremely rare and establish a very strong pattern.
The College Board added that their pending review will not impede Campbell’s opportunity to apply to FSU.
“We are in contact with John Barnhill, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management at Florida State University, who assured us that a student whose scores are delayed will be allowed to submit scores when they become available after the review process is complete.”