ACT Settles Class Action for $16 Million

Suit charged ACT with violating the rights of people with disabilities.

October 26, 2020

ACT has agreed to settle a class action suit that charges it with disclosing -- without appropriate permission -- some test takers' disability status to colleges and scholarship organizations.

ACT has not admitted any wrongdoing and says in the agreement that it agreed to settle only to avoid the litigation costs and uncertainty of prolonged litigation.

However, ACT is making real changes in its practices and has agreed to pay $16 million for violations of state law to members of the class who live in California.

FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which monitors lawsuits against testing companies, says that $16 million is the largest settlement ever agreed to by an admissions testing company.

Under the agreement, ACT cannot:

  • Provide any information on score reports for the ACT Test "… which discloses that the examinee received disability-related testing accommodations or that the examinee has a disability (including examinees self-identifying as having a disability)."
  • Use "school" or "national" to "identify the location of an exam administration on score reports for the ACT Test … that would identify whether an individual took the ACT Test by way of national or special testing."
  • Include "any examinee’s answer to any question regarding disabilities on any score report for the ACT Test sent to any covered program, for any test taken in a college-reportable manner."
  • Ask about "an examinee’s disability status during registration."

For years, testing companies resisted the efforts of people with disabilities to get accommodations on standardized tests. Those accommodations are now guaranteed by state and federal law. Since then, much of the fighting over accommodations has been over disclosing them. Advocates for those with disabilities argue that colleges would be less likely to admit someone with disabilities.

Halie Bloom, lead plaintiff (among 65,728 in the class), said in a statement, "It took a lot of courage for me to stand up publicly for myself and others like me, especially knowing that in our society, test scores are considered a measure of how 'smart' someone is. I'm honored to be a part of this change that permanently impacts college admissions and recruitment for students with disabilities and gives us the power to decide for ourselves if and how to disclose our own unique stories."

ACT released this statement: "Neither the settlement nor the court found that ACT violated any laws or rights of students with disabilities or privacy rights. ACT’s mission includes serving underserved populations, including students with disabilities. ACT creates opportunities in education for students with disabilities; this is a longstanding priority for ACT and will continue to be."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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