Exam Makers Sue To Dismantle Truth-In-Testing

General Testing

The standardized testing industry has launched a legal assault on the nation's most important protection for the millions of students required to take college admissions exams each year. Four exam sponsors have brought suit in federal district court to block further enforcement of New York State's landmark truth-in-testing law.


That statute, which went into effect in 1980, requires exam makers to disclose previously-used exam questions and make technical studies about their products available to the public. Though the requirement is law only in New York, test-makers have complied with Truth-in-Testing nationally and have made millions by selling collections of exams required to be disclosed. Data revealed under Truth-in-Testing have played a key role for students, independent experts and the media who have challenged tests for bias, inaccuracy and lack of educational value.


Plaintiffs in the current suit are the Educational Testing Service (ETS), College Entrance Examination Board, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Board, and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Policy Council. Their suit charges that the periodic disclosure required by New York violates federal copyright law. Most bizarre is the claim that further compliance with a law they have heeded for a decade and a half would cause "irreparable injury." If the court does not grant them relief, the exam-makers threaten to eliminate many test administrations in New York State.


The suit came as New York's legislature was on the verge of passing a bill making clear that Truth-in-Testing applies to computer adaptive exams. Such a proposal was already unanimously endorsed by the state Senate's Higher Education Committee and was scheduled to be considered shortly in the Assembly. A recent scandal in which Kaplan Educational Centers, a coaching company, demonstrated how easy it would be for a select group of students to obtain copies of the computerized GRE (see Examiner, Winter 1994-95) increased momentum for the plan which would give all students equal access to test items.


FairTest plans to support the state of New York in defending this vital and well justified law by enlisting legal and technical experts to work on the case.