Friday, November 11, 2005

Teacher Watch: ETS Monopoly Continues

Educational Testing Service (ETS)--famed (or notorious?) publisher of the AP, SAT, LSAT, GRE, TOEFL, GMAT and most recently the HSEE--has again been granted an exclusive contract to administer the "mammoth" testing program for California students, grades 2-11, through 2008-09. According to ETS estimates, the contract is worth $170 million. The final price has yet to be negotiated.

Keep in mind that ETS maintains not-for-profit status under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. This means two things: ETS pays zero federal income tax and does not have to report any of its financial information to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The fact that ETS vies for public tax dollars makes no difference.

John Oswald, former president of the Association of Test Publishers and senior VP of ETS Elementary and Secondary Education, is reportedly "gratified" to see the state board reward ETS's performance since 2002-03. Interestingly, Oswald has been fairly open about ETS's essential monopoly: "This might sound a little silly, but I don't really think that we have competitors... We really do approach the market from a very different standpoint. We want to work with states that will use assessments to make teaching more effective, that will invest in professional development programs, and that are serious about curriculum reform. Our trustees have made that a matter of policy."

One of Oswald's ETS colleagues, President and CEO Kurt Landgraf, has clarified the corporation's attitude towards (public) money: "[ETS] will never be the low-cost bidder on a contract." Landgraf has also quipped, "I would really be happy if people didn't know what the 'T' meant in 'ETS'. I think of this as an educational-solutions company."

Read the full article about Thursday's new contract award in the Los Angeles Times California section.

Click links for more about ETS, John Oswald and Kurt Langdraf (as sources for above quotes). Ironically, the first appears on a website run by ETS sometimes-competitor Thomson Prometric. The other appears on the site of Stanford University of Education.


Anonymous said...

I have a Master's degree in Language arts, but I can not get my teacher certification because I can't pass the Praxis II exam. I have taught for 2 years in an accountiabilty position. My test scores were 94 in reading and 88 in on-demand. Now the state department says I can't teach anymore because I'm am not "Highly Qulified." The state department is basing 8 years of college 40,000 dollars and my livelihood on paper and pencil(a test).The praxis proves nothing. My scores were just as good as the teachers who passed the test. I think we need some alternative routes!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous from 10/26/2007..
I am looking for a way to unite against ETS also. They refuse to set up the Middle school science test as condusive to a professional standard in the testing center. We can not take out our reference tables and have to flip back and forth between pages to the front of the book. We are not given enough time to answer 90 questions and 3 essays and and to produce the scholary essays that they want. I would like to find out how to approach my state (Va) about this problem.

Tired of ETS said...

If you are looking for a way to unite against ETS, take a look at the Americans for Educational Testing Reform website at . They are organizing people to hold the major testing companies responsible for their poor performance and unethical practices, specifically ETS. It's a pretty new organization, but it looks like it's growing pretty fast - not exactly a big surprise considering how poorly ETS treats its test takers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this article and thanks to those who included links. I signed up to take the GRE ($140) earlier this year and then my plans changed. I ended up canceling the test over 5 WEEKS before the exam date and ETS still kept $70. It didn't seem like they operated ethically. I wanted to take my business elsewhere but...oh yeah, impossible! If I want to apply to Graduate School I MUST GIVE ETS $140. This company is a scandalous for-profit business masquerading as a non-profit. The CEO, Kurt M. Landgraf, made $200K last year and that's only visible profit. Furthermore, ETS has 3 for-profit subsidiary corporations.

Here are the links to support my claims:

I've already signed the petition at AETR web-site and I'm pitching to news outlets to begin investigating ETS and their monopoly.

Let's make some noise.

Larissa said...

I have had trouble with the Educational Testing Service. They demanded more educational testing even though my testing was less than a year old and then took months to get back to me about my accommodations. The problem of most concern; however, is that they refuse to give me an assessable copy of study materials. Below I wrote a more detailed account of my experience. I would like to know if anyone else has shared my experience. Also, I welcome any ideas or suggestions that you may have for getting assistive technology compatible study guides.

ETS Disabilities Services refused to provide or create accessible study materials or practice tests for test takers with disabilities. They provide Braille and large print study guides, but not practice exams, and Braille and large print are only accommodations for certain types of visual or processing impairment. I tried repeatedly to explain my situation and the reason why study guides they provide are inadequate for many people with disabilities.
I am a student with a traumatic brain injury, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, a non-verbal learning disability and ADD. Because of these conditions, I require assistance to read and write. Working with assistive technology and the Academic Services office at my college, I have been a successful college student and have a 3.72 GPA. Based on my academic record, I expect to continue to do well on the Graduate level, however, ETS impedes my ability to progress by not providing adequate accommodations for students like me.

ETS was unwilling to answer my e-mails or give me a direct answer to any of my questions by phone. When the Director of Academic Services e-mailed them about attaining a screen reader compatible version they e-mailed back saying “she [meaning me] can have someone read the study guide to her [me]”

I would like to know if anyone else is having any problems with ETS. If yes, please contact me by e-mail at: or just respond to this post.

I am putting together a binder with interviews I have conducted about the lack of accessible information and the problems that it causes for students and test takers with disabilities. I am also collecting statistics and information about the rights of people with disabilities. I will send my finished product to government agencies and any other organization that may be able to help. Again, if you or anyone that you know wants to answer some questions about their experiences with ETS and accessibility please e-mail me. I really need help.

Pau CastellvĂ­ i Canet (1993) l Jove polĂ­tic i estudiant internacional said...

Dear Larissa,

I know exactly what you mean because I have a visual disability and, last year, I had trouble with the ETS Disabilities Service.

The problem started when I began to try to arrange a date to take my TOEFL iBT in any of the centres of the state of New Mexico, where I studied last year. I had gotten my disability license already (which accidentally also took much more time than expected), and that step was the only one step missing before the test itself.
Therefore, I called them to set a date for me to take my test somewhere in the state of NM (since, if you have any kind of disability you can't do it online). However, for my surprise, no days were available no matter what the date was, and I had to insist many times to end up being told that ETS does not offer accomodations for visually disabled TOEFL internet-based test-takers in the state of New Mexico (something which is mentioned nowhere when you register and pay for it!). Therefore, I ended up taking the pbT thanks to the help of a ETS test manager (nothing to do with the administration) who, for compassion, decided to organize one test for me individually, and she/he arranged it in a way it could work.

It's really indignant that such a profitable firm does not even care to provide a proper disabilities service. And it is even more indignant if that firm is telling all its costumers about its hypothetical fairness! How can education, one of the rights attached to the 'State of welfare' become such an speculative business? This type of service should be practically obliged by law.