Testing Service Reaches Settlement in Teacher Lawsuit

The Educational Testing Service intends to create an $11.1 million fund to pay damages to thousands of teachers who were given incorrect scores on a licensing exam in 2003 and 2004.

The settlement, disclosed Tuesday, would end a string of consolidated lawsuits from teachers who claim the errors caused them humiliation, lost earnisengs and even to shift to other careers. The settlement has been given preliminary approval by a federal judge in New Orleans.

Altogether, about 27,000 people who took the "Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12" test from January 2003 through April 2004 were given incorrect scores — including 4,100 who were incorrectly told they had failed.

The settlement comes amid disclosures last week that about 4,000 high school students who took the SAT college entrance exam last fall received incorrect scores because of a computer scanning error. The incorrect scores on the Praxis exam were the result of overly punitive grading on an essay section by human scorers at ETS.

The SAT, though designed by ETS, is principally scored by Pearson Educational Management, a division of Pearson PLC. Pearson has said it believes excessive moisture may have caused the SAT problems.

Princeton, N.J.-based ETS, a nonprofit, incorrectly scored Praxis tests administered on nine different dates during 2003-2004, at a time when 19 states were using the test.

A court-appointed special master will consider damage claims from teachers and decide how to divide up the fund. The terms call for ETS also to provide a free score report to any class member who did not receive a "false failure" but requests a report.

An attorney for the plaintiffs declined to comment. ETS released a statement saying it could not comment other than to confirm the settlement.

ETS added that notices "informing people about their legal rights" will be mailed to test takers, educational institutions, teachers unions and state Education Departments.