Ewing said ETS observes test-takers and reviews test scores to try to root out cheaters. ETS also has received anonymous tips that have led them to cheaters, Ewing said.
Prosecutors in the Mumford case say he, the teachers and test-takers used the Internet and the U.S. Postal Service to register and pay for the tests, and to receive payment. The indictment does not say how much he allegedly paid the test-takers.
An experienced educator, Mumford was working for Memphis City Schools when the alleged scam took place. Authorities say Mumford defrauded the three states by making the fake driver’s licenses.
‘‘What happens at many testing centers is that a whole bunch of test-takers show up simultaneously, early on a Saturday morning, and the proctors give only a cursory look to the identification,’’ Schaeffer said. ‘‘It’s not like going through airport security where a guy holds up a magnifying glass and puts our license under ultraviolet light to make sure it has not been tampered with.’’
Mumford was fired after news of the investigation came out, and others, like Wilson, have been suspended. But at least three teachers implicated in the scandal remain employed with their school district.
Kingston, the university professor, said prospective teachers may not be confident in their knowledge base to pass the test. Or, the cheaters may believe they are smart enough to pass on their own but also know they are poor test takers.
Kingston said his research has shown that cheating on exams is getting more prevalent.
‘‘The propensity to cheat on exams both through college and for licensure and certification exams seems to be increasing over time,’’ said Kingston. ‘‘People often don’t see it as something wrong.’’
The pressure of passing the test could make people do things they normally would not do. And it could take a while for authorities and test-taking services to catch up with the cheaters.
‘‘When people come up with a new method for cheating, it takes some time for folks to figure it out, partly because this has been an understudied area in the field of assessment,’’ Kingston said.
Nina Monfredo, a 23-year-old history teacher at Power Center Academy in Memphis, has taken Praxis exams for history, geography, middle school content, and secondary teaching and learning.
Monfredo, who passed all her tests and is not involved in the fraud case, said the exams she took were relatively easy for someone who has a high school education. She said some people use study aids to prepare, but she didn't. And she didn’t feel much pressure because it was her understanding that she could take the test again if she did not pass.
‘‘If you feel like you can’t pass and you hire someone it means you really didn’t know what you were doing,’’ she said. ‘‘I think it would be easier to just learn what’s on the test.’’