Teacher Score-Error Cases Advance
More than twenty class action lawsuits charging the Educational Testing Service (ETS) with damaging 4,100 prospective teachers by erroneously giving them failing grades on its Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) licensing exam (see Examiner, Fall 2004 and Spring-Summer 2004) have been consolidated in Federal District Court in Louisiana. A Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation named New Orleans attorney Dawn Barrios to be Lead Counsel and Richard Arsenault as Liaison Counsel in the case. Arsenault explained, “The centralized Louisiana court will help us deliver justice to the teachers by streamlining the proceedings, eliminating duplicative efforts, and conserving resources so we can help teachers get the outcome they deserve.”
According to attorneys, ETS plans to file motions to dismiss all charges except breach of contract. For purposes of discussion, ETS is willing to admit it had a contract with test-takers that was violated when the tests were scored incorrectly. But the firm will argue that refunding test fees was sufficient compensation. The defendant also disputes the claim that the scoring error caused any damages or that any negligence, civil rights, consumer protection or anti-trust issues should be considered by the Court. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers will respond by demonstrating the extent of harm, both financial and emotional, to test-takers, some of whom were denied jobs, teaching certificates, and even college graduation because of the incorrectly calculated exam results. Their first step is discovery, in which they will seek responses to specific questions about the scoring error, why it was not detected over nine administrations of the Praxis PLT, and how it took place. Back-up documentation will also be requested from ETS. A follow-up court session is scheduled for mid-March 2005.
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