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Published: Saturday, 7/17/2004

Teacher sues over grading mistake

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Janet Riehle said she was devastated when she found out she had not passed an exam she needed to get her teaching certification.

She put her special-educational teaching career on hold, settling for substitute-teaching jobs rather than a full-time position.

It turns out, though, she did not fail.

And after finding that out last week, she became annoyed enough to file a class-action lawsuit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo against a nationwide testing organization whose mistake left 4,100 people nationwide - about 1,200 in Ohio - thinking they failed the test when they did not.

"At first I was really excited," said Ms. Riehle of her reaction upon learning that she actually passed the test.

That is "until it set in and I realized that I went through a lot of anguish and a severe blow to my self-esteem when I thought that I had failed," the 2003 Bowling Green State University graduate said.

Ms. Riehle's lawsuit against Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., asks that the court certify the complaint for a class of plaintiffs. It seeks in excess of $75,000, the statutory

minimum to file such a suit in federal court.

Ms. Riehle took the Principles of Learning and Teaching test in November. She said she learned a few months later that she hadn't passed the exam and later took it again.

"I had gone to school for four years to learn this material," she said. "To fail it was a devastating blow to my self-esteem."

The flaw was in grading on the short-answer portion of the Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching exam for grades 7-12 from early 2003 to April, 2004, according to the company.

Passing the exam earns college graduates a two-year teaching license.

The company notified people of the mistake last Saturday. A company spokesman said earlier this week it will make legal teams available to those who lost jobs as a result of the erroneous grading and refund the $115 test fee.

Calls to Educational Testing Service about the lawsuit were not returned.

Ms. Riehle's attorney, Steven Bell of Cleveland, said the mistake cost people job opportunities.

"A lot of these people lost employment because they were told they had not passed the exam," he said. "Obviously there's a significant amount of embarrassment for failing a test like this."

Ms. Riehle, 24, who lives in Bowling Green, said she has been hired to teach special education next year at Lake Elementary School in Millbury.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Dale Emch at:

daleemch@theblade.com

or 419 724-6061.



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