Suits Filed Over Teacher Test Scoring Error

Teacher & Employment Testing

More than a dozen federal class action lawsuits have been filed seeking damages from the Educational Testing Services (ETS) for errors in grading the PRAXIS Principles of Learning and Teaching Grade 7-12 exam required for entry-level classroom certification in many states.


ETS had notified nearly 4,100 teacher candidates that they had failed the test when they actually had passed (see Examiner, Spring-Summer 2004). FairTest helped break the story nationally after learning of test-takers’ problems and has continued working closely with plaintiffs and their attorneys.


Suits have been filed in Ohio, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions. To simplify their defense, ETS lawyers have petitioned the federal courts to consolidate the cases in one location. A Multidistrict Litigation Panel heard arguments on that motion in mid-November, but a decision may not come down until after the year-end holidays.


Meanwhile, lawyers for the prospective teachers are preparing questions for the discovery process, when ETS will be required to answer questions about the scoring error under the pains-and-penalties of perjury. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for a wide range of losses including denial of employment, loss of economic opportunity, delay of tenure, and expenses associated with retesting as well as psychological damages. The minimum claim for a federal class action lawsuit is $75,000 per participant.


ETS has attempted to defuse some of the prospective teachers’ anger and its legal risk by offering case-by-case settlements to individual test-takers. Reportedly, $800,000 to $900,000 has already been paid out, and more claims are under negotiation.


Attention to the PRAXIS case has already produced one favorable development. Lawyers have gone to federal court to re-open a case about a similar scoring error in ETS’ Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), which FairTest uncovered in 2001 (see Examiner, Summer 2001). In that instance, more than 900 business school applicants received inaccurately low scores due to what ETS called a “bug” in the computer program used to grade the GMAT.