SAT Scoring Error Lawsuit, Regulatory Legislation Advance

University Testing

A federal judge in Minnesota has refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the College Board and Pearson Educational Measurement seeking damages for widespread errors in their scoring of the October 2005 SAT exam (see Examiner, May 2006). All told, more than 5,000 students were affected by the scoring problem, which the test makers did not completely disclose for nearly half a year. After an internal investigation, the College Board concluded that moisture had mysteriously caused answer sheets to swell, leading to mistakes when Pearson scanned them.


The decision allows breach-of-contract and negligence claims against both companies to move forward. Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for the negative impact of the scoring error on their chances for college admissions and scholarship aid. They are represented by a consortium of law firms led by Joseph Snodgrass and Shawn Raiter of Larson King, LLP.


Judge Joan Ericksen also denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction requiring the immediate correction of erroneously high SAT scores given to 613 test-takers. The judge concluded that, though the plaintiffs were likely to prove that the College Board breached its contract by not reporting accurate scores, it was unclear whether or how they were damaged. The suit claimed that all test-takers were put at a disadvantage by being forced to compete with students who applied for admissions and scholarships using inflated exam results.


The case is Russo et al v NCS Pearson and College Entrance Examination Board 06-CV-1481 in the federal district court for Minnesota.


Meanwhile, New York State Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Kenneth LaValle is pressing ahead with legislation to create greater oversight for the SAT and other university admissions exams. At a December, 2006 hearing in Albany, LaValle, the author of landmark "Truth in Testing" legislation, said he would refile a plan establishing a regulatory panel within the state Attorney General's office. That proposal easily passed the State Senate in 2006 but stalled in the State Assembly.