Release of Report on Testing Would Contradict ETS Claims

NEWS ANALYSIS

"Educational Testing Services (ETS) is extremely strong. They have friends in high places almost everywhere," Banesh Hoffman, a Queens College physicist who authored "The Tyranny of Testing," said yesterday.

The strength of ETS may be enough to pressure the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into refusing to release a report that shows coaching improves standardized test scores, testing experts agreed yesterday.

ETS, the company that dominates standardized testing, has told students for years that cramming for the Scholastic Aptitude Test and other tests is a waste of time, claiming that the test measure aptitude and not achievement.

Flak

If the FTC report is released it would largely destroy that claim, causing ETS problems with students who have followed the company's instructions and scored low and with colleges who have believed that the tests were actually measuring innate ability and not achievement of applicants.

"It would mean ETS has been wrong all there years," John Weiss, the director of Project DETEST, an anti-testing group, said yesterday. That prospect might be enough to make ETS lean on the FTC in an attempt to stifle the report, Steve Solomon, a testing expert with the New York Public Interest Research Group said yesterday.

"The FTC lawyers went after the cram schools. Since they have no case there, the powers that be at the FTC might just decide not to publish the report at all," Weiss said.

No Pressure

ETS spokesman John Smith denied that his company was pressuring the FTC. John Sexton, a third-year law student who used to run one of the country's most successful test preparation centers, said yesterday the FTC was unlikely to pressure ETS. "With the people they have at the FTC now, I think any attempts at pressure would be counterproductive," Sexton said.

Arthur Levine, a Boston staff attorney for the FTC and author of the controversial report, speculated that the amount of recent publicity about the report might make publication more likely.

"There are a whole range of options available to us." FTC spokesman Charles C. Shepherd said yesterday. "We can publish it fully or not at all, and everything in between," he said.