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By Marten Roorda, CEO                                                                                                                            


It’s a strong word and one that most of us take very seriously. It’s a word that connotes honesty, ethics, fairness and trustworthiness. When we think about people of integrity, we usually think of people such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. And when we question the integrity of someone or something, it usually casts doubt or concern. No one wants to cross a bridge that lacks structural integrity. And when we lose confidence in the integrity of a family member or friend, we are usually quick to want to address it. Integrity is a weighty word and one that my organization and I take seriously.

This is why I feel the need to respond when the integrity of our organization is questioned.

ACT is trusted by millions of students, parents, educators and institutions to provide fair, accurate, and trustworthy assessment results. We strive to do that every day we come to work.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we live in an imperfect world and despite ACT’s and our industry’s desire for precision and accuracy, mistakes sometime occur. When this happens, it results in what we call a misadministration of the test, and when there is a misadministration, ACT cannot stand behind the scores and must cancel them.

Such a misadministration occurred this past month in a few Tennessee schools during the statewide Senior Retake Opportunity. Despite procedures, instructions and protocols carefully designed to ensure the accurate ordering, delivery and administration of the test, mistakes were made by a small number of schools. One such misadministration resulted in the cancelling of scores of approximately 400 students at Bearden High School in Knox County.

ACT deeply regrets that the students of Bearden High School have been impacted by this situation. It wasn’t the students’ fault. It is especially difficult during a time when many seniors are making final admissions decisions and scholarship applications. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that a misadministration occurred.

ACT has made efforts to support students by providing a free retake opportunity during an upcoming national test, verifying that the University of Tennessee at Knoxville would accept December ACT test scores in admissions and scholarship opportunities, and offering to work with students and other universities to verify the misadministration. Nevertheless, our integrity has been questioned because of our decision to cancel the scores.

Since the misadministration and canceling of scores was announced, there has been a great deal of incorrect information passed along regarding the situation. The misinformation about the flawed testing experience has continued to grow to the point where local and state policymakers requested a meeting with ACT to clarify what happened on that October test date.

This past week senior leaders from ACT traveled to Nashville to meet with Tennessee’s Lt. Governor and other state policymakers to provide them with accurate information on the misadministration and to answer questions they had related to the event. We provided detailed evidence on the mistakes that occurred, which were outside of ACT’s control. Nevertheless, our integrity has subsequently been questioned, and political posturing has ensued.

ACT recently delivered a letter to Lt. Governor McNally that again outlines the facts of the situation as well as other pertinent information that he has requested about the misadministration. We are happy to engage with the Lt. Governor and others on this issue; however, the insinuation that we have acted unethically or without integrity demands a response.

ACT takes seriously our duty to ensure every student—and university and scholarship agency—receives an ACT score they can trust as valid. It’s what we’ve done for almost 60 years for millions upon millions of students across the country and around the globe. Releasing scores from a test that occurred under a flawed testing administration would compromise that public trust. It would also be unfair to students who tested under a proper administration and who are competing with those students for admission and scholarship opportunities. We must be fair to ALL students. Imagine the outcry from other students (or their parents or local officials) who tested under standardized administrations if we released scores from a misadministration that resulted in them missing out on scholarships or admissions slots to a student with a compromised score?  Admissions and scholarships are generally a zero sum game – the positions are finite. Releasing invalid results from a misadministration may satisfy some but at what expense to others?

It is extremely unfortunate that students and their families have been negatively impacted by the misadministration at Bearden High School. We regret any time a student is hurt by circumstances beyond their control. We hope that such incidents will never happen again, and we will continue our hard work to ensure that it doesn’t. But if and when it does, we will stand behind our policies and do what we can to help impacted students work through the situation. We are heartened by the nearly 300 students impacted by the misadministration who have thus far accepted our free retake offer, and we will continue to support them and other similarly impacted students as best we can while protecting the validity and reliability of the ACT test for all students.