Two Testing Companies Agree to Pay to Settle SAT Error Lawsuit
Two big testing organizations, the College Board and NCS Pearson Inc., said Friday that they had agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving more than 4,000 students whose SAT exams were incorrectly scored in 2005.
Under the proposed settlement, the students would receive $275 each, or possibly more if they can show they suffered greater damages. The board said last year that for 4,411 students, the reported scores were too low — in a few instances by as many as 450 points out of a possible 2,400. A retired judge will decide the final payments.
Edna Johnson, a spokeswoman for the College Board, said the board had agreed to the settlement because “we’re eager to put this behind us and focus on the future.”
“We deeply regret the inconvenience and the worry that this caused affected students and parents,” Johnson said, adding that the College Board had since “put in place even more quality control measures.”
Amanda M. Hellerman, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., who said she initially received a score that was more than 300 points below what it should have been, said, “It is great to hear that the College Board is being held accountable.” Hellerman, who now attends Amherst College, added, “But what would be more promising to me is they gave some indication of how they were going to insure that this kind of thing does not happen again.”
The College Board disclosed in March 2006, in the midst of the college admission season, that about 1 percent of the nearly 500,000 students who took the SAT exam in October 2005 had received incorrect scores because their answer sheets had become moist, causing them to be misread when scanned for scoring. NCS Pearson, one of the country’s biggest testing companies, had a contract with the College Board to handle the scoring.
While the board sent revised scores to colleges, some students said the lower scores had affected where they applied and it was too late to make changes. The board discovered the problems after a couple of students paid to have their tests rescored by hand.
The size of the minimum settlement is not that different from what some students pay for taking the SAT multiple times and for additional services like rushing their score reports, sending them to additional colleges, changing their testing centers or verifying that an exam had been scored correctly. Sitting for the basic SAT test costs $43. The charge for having the results of the test double-checked is $50.
Robert A. Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a group that is critical of much standardized testing, called the settlement “an important reminder that standardized tests are fallible and that reported scores can be wrong.”
State Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, a Republican from Port Jefferson, N.Y., who is chairman of the Senate’s higher education committee and who held hearings on the scoring problems, also welcomed the agreement. “Vindication is always a nice thing,” LaValle said, adding that he still felt the need for greater oversight. “The testing institutions need to be accountable.”
T. Joseph Snodgrass, one of the lawyers in Minnesota who represented the test takers, said that if the settlement received final approval from a federal district judge in late November as expected, he believed payments could go out early next year.