$3 Million Settlement for SAT Scoring Error

University Testing


FairTest Examiner - October 2007



More than 4,400 students, whose results from the October 2005 SAT were erroneously calculated and reported, will split nearly three million dollars to compensate for the error. The College Board, the SAT's sponsor, and NCS Pearson, which scores the test, agreed to the payout to settle a federal class action lawsuit. The minimum payment will be $275.

According to the test makers, errors of up to 450 points on the SAT's 2400 point scale were caused by some answer sheets absorbing "abnormally high moisture content." This distorted response marks and threw off the optical scanning device that tabulates scores (see Examiner, May 2006). No conclusive explanation has ever been provided for where the water came from or how papers from across the country were contaminated (see Examiner, January, 2007).

All affected test-takers are eligible to receive at least $275 simply by completing a short claim form. Students asserting greater harm may submit details of additional damages to a retired federal judge who will determine final payments. This allows extra compensation for those who may have missed out on test-based scholarships or paid for coaching courses to boost their scores due to the error. After all claims are evaluated and paid, any leftover money will go to charity.

"This case won't end some of the problems that we've seen in the testing industry," said plaintiffs' attorney Joe Snodgrass. "But so long as these types of cases are brought, the testing industry, we believe, is becoming more responsible." Snodgrass' Minneapolis firm, Larson-King, also won a major settlement from Pearson for falsely flunking hundreds of students on Minnesota's high school graduation test (see Examiner, Fall 2002).

This case is an important reminder that standardized tests are imperfect products. It is yet another example of why no test should be relied upon to make high-stakes judgments about students, teachers or the quality of education.

Details about the settlement, including compensation forms, may be found at www.october2005satsettlement.com. All claims must be submitted by December 29, 2007.