Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Lawsuit: Bad grades killed jobs

Bogus certification test failures cost them money

By Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writer

A Cincinnati man claimed in a lawsuit Tuesday that he and thousands of other teacher candidates lost jobs and money because they received failing grades on certification tests they actually passed.

The class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati is the first in the country to accuse the testing organization, Educational Testing Services, of antitrust violations as well as negligence.

Paul Perrea, a former electrical engineer turned substitute teacher, claims the New Jersey-based firm negligently designed and scored the certification tests and has failed to change policies that allowed the mistakes to occur.

Perrea's suit also accuses the nonprofit company of monopolistic behavior, claiming ETS so dominates the certification process that it is able to charge unreasonable fees.

"We believe ETS used its monopoly power and leveraged that power to make money in related services," said Perrea's lawyer, Phyllis Brown.

Educational Testing Services officials declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit or the antitrust claim.

"We're going to continue to work with the people involved in this and try to do what's right," said Peter Yeager, a company spokesman.

ETS acknowledged the scoring errors last month when officials revealed that more than 4,000 teacher candidates in 19 states were incorrectly graded as failing their tests. At least 1,200 of those candidates were from Ohio.

Passing scores on the tests are required for licensing as an instructor in grades 7 through 12. Most states require the tests, and Educational Testing Services produces the most widely-used exam.

Perrea, 44, said he's certain the failure to correctly score his test cost him jobs as a math or science teacher. He said it also caused embarrassment when he was told he failed the essay portion of the test.

"Teaching is one profession where grading and tests matter," Perrea said. "There's a lot of shame involved."

He later learned, however, that his failing score of 156 - short of the minimum 165 score - should have been a passing score of 174.

Perrea's lawsuit seeks a court order barring monopolistic behavior and asks for unspecified damages for the teacher candidates whose tests were incorrectly scored.


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