"Sorry, Your Scores Are Delayed, Lost, or ???"

University Testing

Results from more than 1,500 Advanced Placement Tests administered last May at schools around the globe still had not been reported as of early October because portions of the exams were missing. The College Board, which sponsors the AP program, and the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the exams' administrator, said they were still looking for answer sheets. In some cases multiple-choice responses were lost, in others it was the essay portion of the tests.

A similar problem arose with some SAT II subject tests administered last spring. Shelley Lamontagne, the mother of a high school student, recently testified before the New York State Senate Higher Education Committee about the problems her son faced in finding out why his scores had not been reported. Only after spending hours investigating, including pursuing tracking numbers with the delivery service that transported test materials, did Ms. Lamontagne discover that all 56 answer forms from SAT II exams administered on May 8, 2006, at Franklin Academy in Hamden, Connecticut, could not be located. Though Ms. Lamontagne uncovered evidence that the problem was not limited to one school, the College Board has failed to answer her question about how many students were affected nationally.

Nor are missing test results a problem only for admissions exams. This summer, the ETS website posted a message to prospective teachers, "ETS regrets to report that scores were delayed for approximately 2,700 candidates who took The Praxis SeriesTM teacher licensing examinations in June. Most test takers have now received their scores. If you were one of the candidates who received late scores or who remain without scores, please accept our sincere apology and offer of continuing assistance."

Small comfort. In fact, victims of lost scores - whether the result of test-maker negligence or other factors - have little choice but to retake the exams, often at an inconvenient time or location. Students who graduated from high school last spring are left in an academic limbo, without the AP or SAT II scores they need to avoid registering for introductory college level courses. The consequences are potentially worse for those seeking entry-level teaching positions, as they would not have been eligible for many jobs due to the lack of passing scores on the licensing test. This problem comes on the heels of a lawsuit about a scoring error on the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching test that led ETS to create an $11.1 million compensation pool to settle claims of lost employment by those who had erroneously been told they had failed (see Examiner May 2006).

Once again, the industry whose products are highly promoted as "accountability" tools has failed to demonstrate basic accountability (or corporate responsibility) in its own dealings with test-takers and the public.