A high school honors student says she may miss out on attending her dream school because her SAT scores were invalidated when she improved by more than 300 points.
Now, Kamilah Campbell, a senior at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High in Miami, has hired a big-time attorney to fight back against the testing company that accused her of cheating.
At a press conference Wednesday alongside that attorney, Benjamin Crump, the teen insisted she had achieved a higher score through hard work. Crump became nationally known as the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family.
“To have your effort taken away from you and for them to say, 'Oh well, we think you cheated,' it's not fair,” the teen said at a press conference Wednesday, posted online by the Miami Herald.
Crump's office told BuzzFeed News Kamilah is an honors student, with a 3.1 GPA. The daughter of a single mother, Kamilah's passion is dance. She is co-captain of her high school dance team, and earned a scholarship at a local dance studio, where she also works.
Kamilah's dream is to study dance at Florida State University, the number 14 dance school in the nation, according to Crump. She wants to major in dance and minor in business. It's unclear if she has applied yet.
The teen also had a plan to achieve her dream: qualify for Florida's Medallion Scholarship. The state-run program offers a scholarship that pays $159.53 per credit hour to cover tuition and fees for students who meet the criteria.
Students need at least a 3.0 GPA, at least an 1170 SAT score, certain high school classes, and 75 hours of community service to be eligible.
When Kamilah first took the test, in March of her junior year, she didn't prepare at all, according to Crump. Her score was 900 out of 1600, meaning she wasn't eligible for the scholarship.
So, according to Kamilah, she got to work to improve.
"Between then and October she practiced diligently, working with her teachers, receiving tutoring, and regularly accessing the preparatory resources of Khan Academy," Crump's office said.
She retook the test on Oct. 6. However, on Oct. 19, she got a troubling letter from ETS, the company that administers the SAT.
ETS said that her "score had been flagged for further review." The teen called ETS, wanting to know what the problem was. Finally, a representative told Kamilah on the phone that her new score, 1230, was flagged for being too much of an improvement.
"She was told her score was flagged because such a marked improvement indicated that she likely had 'prior knowledge' of the test or had otherwise cheated," Crump said.
Finally, on Dec. 19, Kamilah got more bad news. Her score was being deemed "invalid."
The letter stated that "based on a preliminary review, there appears to be substantial evidence that your scores on the October 6, 2018 SAT are invalid as a result of substantial agreement between your answers on one or more scores sections of the test and those of other test-takers."
Neither ETS nor the College Board immediately returned a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
However, a spokesperson for the College Board told the Miami Herald scores are flagged when "statistical analyses and other factors determine it is necessary.” He said he couldn't speak about individual cases.
“We do not cancel scores based on a score gain alone,” Zach Goldberg said. “We will only cancel scores after we are confident that there is substantial evidence to do so.”
According to Crump, the onus is now on Kamilah to request from ETS the evidence of her cheating, and the timetable is unknown.
Kamilah is hoping to matriculate to FSU next year, meaning she has no time to waste. Her options are to try and fight with ETS, or take the test again, and hope to score similarly.
"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," Crump said.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for Kamilah's high school district said they felt the matter was "a disturbing allegation that could have a troubling impact on one of our students."
"Although this is a test administered by a private entity, and not M-DCPS, we feel a moral obligation to intervene," Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, the chief communications officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said. "As such, the superintendent has already reached out to the highest levels of leadership at the College Board and has received assurances that the matter will be swiftly reviewed."
Crump's office is demanding ETS release Kamilah's scores within two weeks, or it will pursue further legal action.