SAT scoring error means big bill
Associated Press
Aug. 25, 2007


Brian Bakst

ST. PAUL, Minn. - More than 4,400 students who received incorrect scores on
2005 SAT exams could get a share of $2.85 million under a proposed settlement announced Friday by parties in a federal class-action lawsuit.

The payout by the not-for-profit College Board and test-scoring company NCS Pearson Inc. would give the wronged test takers a minimum of $275. The settlement needs ratification by Judge Joan Ericksen during a Nov. 29 hearing.

"We were eager to put this behind us and focus on the future," said Edna Johnson, a spokeswoman for the College Board, which administers the SAT. NCS Pearson declined to comment, spokesman Dave Hakensen said.

In all, 4,411 students got incorrectly low scores, and more than 600 had better results than they deserved on the October 2005 test. Test takers who were scored too low later had their results corrected.

Joe Snodgrass, a St. Paul attorney who represents some students, said lawyers wanted to make sure everyone who had an incorrectly low score got something.

Students who submit a short claim form will get the $275. Those who felt they were harmed more or wound up paying for tutoring because of the error can ask for a higher amount. People can also file their own lawsuits and not take part in the settlement.

The fee for the SAT in October 2005 was $41.50.

Any unclaimed money at the end of the settlement period would go to charity.

Snodgrass said the two firms representing students had agreed to share a maximum of $900,000 in attorney fees, also subject to the judge's approval at the November hearing.

"This case won't end some of the problems that we've seen in the testing industry," Snodgrass said. "But so long as these types of cases are brought, the testing industry, we believe, is becoming more responsible."

Bob Schaeffer, an SAT critic and public-education director of the group FairTest, said the case is "an important reminder that tests are imperfect products that should not be relied upon to make high-stakes judgments" about students and teachers.

After the error surfaced, the College Board implemented new quality-control requirements. Johnson said all answer sheets now must be scanned twice, on different days and using different machines. Completed tests are also kept in a setting that avoids excessive humidity, which contributed to the error, she said.

The SAT is taken by more than 1.5 million students and used by many colleges as a factor in selecting students. The 2005 scoring error affected less than
1 percent of the results.