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ACT rejects appeal to validate Bearden test scores

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) -- An error may cause more than 400 seniors at a Knoxville high school to retake the ACT after the wrong test was delivered and administered.

"We unknowingly gave the wrong test that ACT sent us," Bearden High School Principal Dr. John Bartlett said.

The Tennessee Department of Education says due to a scheduling conflict, Bearden High School 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.

"Ultimately, there was a misadministration that happened at the local level and ACT has to make the decision related to their own policies whether they will count those tests or not," Commissioner Candice McQueen said.

The school maintains that it notified the ACT company well ahead of time to notify them of their new test date on Oct. 17. Knox County Schools held a career fair on Oct. 3, leaving schools in the district to administer the ACT two weeks later. Dr. Bartlett said they still received the test for a different day, with no way to know the difference and spot the mistake.

"It's very frustrating," Bartlett said. "We did everything we can as a school. We tried to do everything properly. This is very frustrating and now we're going to have to jump through hoops to try to make sure our kids can take that December 9th test. For our students and parents, especially, this is very, very frustrating. A lot of them have money riding on this test. If they increase their test score two to three points, that could mean thousands of dollars for a parent or it could mean admission to an honors program or for some, it could mean admission to that college of their dreams."

The Tennessee State Department of Education appealed ACT's decision to not score the tests but got denied.

"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.," Ed Colby, Senior Director of Media and Public Relations for ACT, said. "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.

To make up for the mistake, the company is offering students free vouchers to re-take the test, but seniors said that's not enough.

"The free voucher is just to make it look like they did something because that is completely and utterly useless to us because that is after the December 1st deadline and competitive scholarships go out the window," Mason Stivers, Bearden high school senior, said.

Students said the mix-up puts college scholarships and admissions in jeopardy. It also creates an inconvenience for students, who now have to take the test on a Saturday, unlike the October test that was administered during school hours.

"This ACT test was an in school, free test, that was given to us and a lot of students really needed that, because a lot of students to graduate some of them don't have the means of transportation or they have jobs and they can't make it to a weekend Saturday test, which is the December 9th test. So for a lot of students, this was there one opportunity to get these scholarships and get into college," Michael Clubb, Bearden High School senior, said.

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

Despite the appeal ruling, students and faculty are still fighting to get the scores validates, but at the very least, they are trying to prevent this mistake from hurting future students.

"I think there needs to be better labeling," Bartlett said. "There needs to be better communication from the ACT Corporation to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Dr. Bartlett is doing a number of things on his own to accommodate students and has even promised to notify all of the colleges his seniors are applying to about the ACT issue.

The University of Tennessee Admissions Office has already agreed to work with the high school, releasing this statement to WATE 6 On Your Side.

"UT Admissions officials are aware of the ACT issue at Bearden High School. They have already contacted high school officials to let them know they will be working with impacted students so they are not disadvantaged.  UT's December 15 deadline is for students who applied for admissions by November 1 and wish to apply for competitive scholarships and UT's Honors and Scholars Programs.  UT will accept the December ACT scores for those students.  UT will remain in contact with the high school."

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