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Dept. of Education appeals ACT's decision to not score Bearden High School tests

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) -- Four hundred and nine seniors at Bearden High School may have to retake the ACT, after an error led to tests they took last month being rejected by the testing agency.

The decision to invalidate the test comes as seniors prepare to apply for college admissions and scholarships.

"I think it's very unfortunate," Patti Bounds, Knox County School Board chair, said. "My first concern is for those students who are depending on those scores to get into certain colleges or perhaps to apply for certain scholarships as well as giving up another four hours of a Saturday morning to retake the test."

The Tennessee Department of Education says due to a scheduling conflict, Bearden High chose to administer the test on Oct. 17, instead of the original statewide retake test date of Oct. 3. However school officials inadvertently left their testing date as the default of Oct 3. in the ACT electronic ordering system, so the school was shipped the Oct. 3 version of the test.

Mason Stivers is a senior at Bearden High School. He said he needed this score in order to apply for scholarships.

"Anger and confusion and everybody is just searching for an answer," he said.

Bearden High Principal John Bartlett said there wasn't a date or any indication that it was the wrong test. However, the finished tests were ruled invalid because other schools across the state had already taken that test and the answers could be shared.

"They don't deserve to be punished for someone elses' mistake," said Leigh Stivers, Mason's mother.

Knox County Schools and the Department of Education requested that the exams be validated and scored anyway, although state officials say the final decision lies with ACT.

"Our hope has been that these scores will be recognized so students do not need to retake the exam again," read a statement from the Department of Education.

Students are being offered vouchers for any ACT National Test Day. Students are able to sign up to take the ACT again on Dec. 9.

Principal John C. Bartlett said in the letter, "I understand how disappointing this news is, I personally apologize for this issue. Many, many of our students have worked very hard to prepare for this test."

The ACT college readiness assessment is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States. It is administered by the ACT, a non-profit organization.

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the ACT. The ACT sent a statement saying,

"ACT confirms a misadministration of the ACT test at a small number of high schools in Tennessee, including Bearden High School, during the fall 2017 ACT Senior Retake Opportunity. When a misadministration occurs, ACT's policy is to cancel the scores in question. As a result, ACT will not be releasing the scores of those students deemed to have tested under a misadministration. ACT cannot provide any further details about the misadministration.

ACT is offering impacted students an opportunity to retake the ACT for free during a future ACT national test date. We will be communicating with impacted students through their high schools and providing them with information about their options. We are aware that some impacted students may be facing college admission deadlines. ACT will provide a letter that students may share with colleges confirming that they took the ACT in October 2017 but did not receive scores through no fault of their own.

ACT sincerely regrets this situation and any inconvenience it may cause to impacted students."

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