ETS' "Comedy" of Arrogance

University Testing

New York City test-takers recently had first-hand exposure to what critics have long termed the unaccountable and arbitrary behavior of the Educational Testing Service (ETS).


First, ETS could not find sixty answer sheets submitted from this May's SAT administration at Stuyvesant High School. After neglecting to notify test-takers of the problem for a month, ETS sent a letter announcing that the materials were "lost" and offering a free make-up -- the very next Saturday following a week of final exams for many students.


After protests from students and parents about the short notice, the lack of choice in exam scheduling, and the generally poor process, the testing company offered an alternative make-up date. But soon after the retests were administered, ETS "found" more than two-thirds of the answer sheets from the original test. In typical fashion, ETS informed students of this latest development in a letter indicating that scores from the make-up exam would not be reported to students, high schools or colleges.


Not surprisingly, test-takers who sat through an extra, and clearly unnecessary, SAT were outraged. Many could not fathom why they could be forced to take an additional SAT and then be denied access to their scores.


ETS says withholding the make-up scores is required by "policy" and, so far, has not yielded from its autocratic ruling. Nor has the company satisfactorily explained how some answer sheets could be located while others sent in the same package remain missing.


The experience should provide lessons for students, policy makers, and media around the nation. Without public oversight and regulation over ETS and similar firms, test-takers will forever be at the mercy of large corporations whose primary agenda is enhancing revenue and maintaining power, not serving their clients.