Twelfth grade students Sohrab Pasikhani, left, and Bridgette LaFaye work in their Advanced Placement (AP) Physics class at…
FILE - Students work in their Advanced Placement (AP) Physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, Feb. 7, 2014.

Students who took online tests and received an error message when they hit "submit" have filed a lawsuit against the organization that administers the tests.

The suit was filed in federal district court in Los Angeles and seeks over $500 million in damages after Advanced Placement test takers were told their files couldn't be uploaded or were corrupted.

"The College Board acknowledged that these issues existed, but it did not change its policies to address them," according to the suit filed by Baker, Keener & Nahra LLP and Miller Advocacy Group in Los Angeles.

Advanced Placement (AP) tests allow students to take college-level courses in high school. In some cases, students can test out of college courses, advancing their studies early and saving them money on course fees.

To complete the test, AP science students were required to take photos of their work, upload them to their computer, convert the file, and load them into the test interface. Problems arose when photo uploads of students' work were denied or deemed corrupted.

"On May 24, 2020, after 3 full days of at-home AP exams, the College Board admitted that there was a measurable failure rate in uploading the exams, and it attempted to change its policies going forward," the suit alleges. "The College Board's President David Coleman acknowledged in an email that, 'we can't control the conditions in students' home.'"

Special needs violation?

Besides students, the plaintiffs include the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), who opposes "the misuses and flaws" of the standardized testing system, according to Forbes

Other complications included extreme difficulty securing approved academic accommodations and heightened test anxiety, The Chronicle for Higher Education reported.  

The suit alleges that this violated the Americans With Disabilities Act for students with special accommodations. For example, if a student required a quiet testing space and has a legal accommodation, having to take a test at home might not meet that requirement.

The organization's testing procedures are "simple; secure and fair; accessible to all; and valid for use in college admissions," according to the College Board's website.

College Board's reaction

The College Board has stated that only 1% of test takers each day had problems, according to The Chronicle for Higher Education. However, high school teachers and counselors said up to 20% of students could not submit answers.

After receiving complaints about the system, the College Board instituted an emergency procedure, enabling students to email their responses to the organization.

The College Board website instructs students to change their phone's camera settings to capture images as a JPEG file and asks test takers to use the final 5 minutes of the exam to upload their work. 

The College Board has dismissed the lawsuit, saying "it is wrong factually and baseless legally; the College Board will vigorously and confidently defend against it, and expect to prevail," said Peter Schwartz, College Board chief risk officer and general counsel, in a statement to The Washington Post

Typically lasting several hours and administered by a proctor, the College Board introduced online, 45-minute exams after the in-person tests were canceled in March. About 2.2 million students took online exams, the College Board said.

The College Board, which also administers the SAT college entrance exam, has come under fire in recent years as standardized testing falls in popularity

Students can retake the tests in June.