Proposed $3M settlement for wrong SAT scores

More than 4,400 students who received incorrect scores on a 2005 SAT exam are being offered a share of a $2.85 million proposed settlement announced Friday by parties in the federal class-action lawsuit.

The payout by the not-for-profit College Board and test scoring company NCS Pearson Inc. would give the wronged test takers a minimum of $275. The settlement needs ratification by Judge Joan Ericksen during a hearing scheduled for Nov. 29.

"We were eager to put this behind us and focus on the future," said Edna Johnson, a spokeswoman for the College Board, which administers the SAT.

NCS spokesman Dave Hakensen said the company declined comment.

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In all, 4,411 students got incorrectly low scores and more than 600 had better results than they deserved on the October 2005 test.

Test-takers who were scored too low later had their results corrected.

Joe Snodgrass, a St. Paul attorney who represents some students, said lawyers wanted to make sure everyone who had an incorrectly low score got something.

Students who submit a short claim form will get the $275. Those that felt they were harmed more or wound up paying for tutoring because of the error can ask a retired judge for a higher amount. There is also the option for people to file their own lawsuits and not take part in the settlement.

The fee for the SAT in October 2005 was $41.50.

If there is unclaimed money at the end of the settlement period, the leftovers will go to charity.

"This case won't end some of the problems that we've seen in the testing industry," Snodgrass said. "But so long as these types of cases are brought, the testing industry, we believe, is becoming more responsible."

Bob Schaeffer, an SAT critic and public education director of the group FairTest, said the settlement is a significant admission by the College Board and NCS Pearson.

"This case is an important reminder that tests are imperfect products that should not be relied upon to make high-stakes judgments about students, teachers or the quality of education," Schaeffer said in a news release.

After the error surfaced, the College Board implemented new quality control requirements. Johnson said all answer sheets now must be scanned twice, on different days and using different machines. Completed tests are also kept in a setting that avoids excessive humidity because unusual moisture apparently contributed to the error, she said.

The SAT is taken by more than 1.5 million students and used by many colleges as a factor in selecting students. The 2,400-point exam measures reasoning skills in reading, writing and math.

The 2005 scoring error affected less than 1 percent of the results during that batch of testing.

In 2002, Pearson settled a lawsuit in a Minnesota state test error that affected more than 8,000 students, some of whom missed their graduation ceremonies after being told they failed a state-required exam. ---

A help line for people wanting information about the settlement has been set up: (888) 568-7675.