Court Backs Test-Taker in Suit Against ETS

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The Educational Testing Service breached its contract with a student test-taker when it refused to consider his explanation for an unusually large increase in his SAT scores, the New York State Court of Appeals has ruled.

The state's highest court ruled 5-2 that the ETS failed to weigh relevant information Brian Dalton submitted to explain the 410-point jump in his scores after he took the Scholastic Aptitude Test a second time in 1991. Mr. Dalton said his scores improved after he completed a test-preparation course.

Both sides in the four-year-old lawsuit claimed victory after the Dec. 7 ruling.

Mr. Dalton's advocates said the decision would open the door to future court challenges by students against the ETS, which administers the exam, now known as the Scholastic Assessment Test.

Legal action against the Princeton, N.J.-based company had seemed daunting in the past because the ETS had never lost such a case before, said Jay Rosner, the director of the Princeton Review Foundation. The foundation is the nonprofit arm of a test-preparation service that lent legal support to Mr. Dalton.

Partial Victory

But the court did not find that the company's appeals process was unfair. And, noting that the scores' validity had yet to be determined, the judges declined to rule that ETS should report Mr. Dalton's scores to colleges.

"We view this as a victory because the court upheld our procedures as being fair," said Ray Nicosia, the director of test security for the ETS.

After the decision, Vincent Nicolosi, Mr. Dalton's lawyer, said he would return to a trial court to seek compensation for his client's loss of admissions and a scholarship to the college of his choice.

Two lower courts had earlier ruled in Mr. Dalton's favor. He is now a senior at Queens College in New York City.

The ETS challenges test results that show more than a 250-point increase on either the mathematics or verbal section, or more than a 350-point combined-score increase.

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