College Board, Test Company Sued Over SAT

Published April 09, 2006

| Associated Press

A high school senior whose SAT was incorrectly scored low is suing the board that oversees the exam and the testing company that was hired.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday in Minnesota, was believed to be the first since last month's announcement that 4,411 students got incorrectly low scores and that more than 600 had better results than they deserved on the October test.

It names the nonprofit College Board and the for-profit Pearson Educational Measurement, which has offices in Minnesota's Hennepin County.

"Any type of a high-stakes test that impacts a life event like college, scholarships and financial aid has to be scored with 100 percent accuracy," St. Paul attorney T. Joseph Snodgrass said Saturday. "There is no room for error in this type of a situation."

Pearson spokesman David Hakensen said Saturday that the company won't comment on pending litigation. College Board spokeswoman Chiara Coletti did not immediately return phone messages Saturday.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys for an unidentified high school senior in Dix Hills, N.Y., seeks class action status. Lawyers want to allow anyone who took the test in October except those who got a marked-up score to join the lawsuit.

The suit also seeks unspecified damages, an order requiring adjustment of the inflated scores and a refund of the test fee.

Test-takers whose scores were made too low had their results corrected, but the College Board has declined to fix the inflated scores. That has angered some college officials who say they could unfairly influence admissions and scholarship decisions.

The SAT is taken by more than 2 million students and used by many colleges as a factor in admissions. The 2,400-point exam measures reasoning skills in reading, writing and math.

The October test was taken by nearly a half-million students, so the error affected less than 1 percent of the results. The College Board maintains most were off by 100 points or less, but some students saw much wider swings.

Pearson has said the culprit may have been excessive moisture that caused answer sheets to expand and some marks to be unreadable. The error was discovered when the College Board asked the company to hand-score some tests.

Snodgrass' firm won a multimillion-dollar settlement from Pearson in 2002 for scoring errors in Minnesota that affected more than 8,000 students, some of whom missed graduation ceremonies after being told they failed a state-required exam.

The lawsuit alludes to the Minnesota mistake and others in alleging that Pearson has taken shortcuts.

"The College Board contracted with Pearson despite the fact that Pearson is no stranger to botching test scores," the lawsuit reads.

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