- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Nearly 200 students who took the ACT college entrance exam at a suburban Des Moines high school in December have been informed they won’t receive their results.

The ACT organization sent an email Monday night to 195 students tested at Johnston High School notifying them their answer sheets never arrived at headquarters in Iowa City for scoring. As a result, ACT said score reports cannot be issued for the Dec. 13 national testing date.

Students were told scores would be available no later than Feb. 6. Now, ACT has offered to let students retake the exam either Feb. 7 or Feb. 14 at no cost and will refund December registration fees because of the error.

“It’s irritating, because now I have to worry about taking the test again not knowing where I could have improved since I never got that first-time score,” said Emily Harney, a senior at Dallas Center-Grimes Community High School in Grimes. She said her college acceptance depends on how well she scores on the ACT.

ACT spokeswoman Katie Wacker said the tests were sent out for scoring using the wrong mailing method. She said the ACT-hired testing coordinator had been told to use FedEx to ship the test packets, but instead sent them through U.S. mail.

“When that happens, if they have simply gone astray, they often eventually show up and we are able to score those tests and provide those scores to the student,” she said. “But if they do not show up, we are unable to provide any scores and therefore our only real course of action is to apologize and ask that the students retest, at a considerable amount of inconvenience to them and their families.”

Wacker said as many as 6,000 testing centers administer the exam on national test days, making it difficult to immediately identify if one center’s score sheets don’t arrive. She said the testing company doesn’t keep a running record of instances where test packets don’t show up, but she said it’s extremely rare, estimating that packets are either severely damaged or lost about once a year.

Still, the situation in Iowa is nearly identical to an incident in September at Upper Darby High School in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, in which 182 tests went missing. Wacker said the proximity of the Iowa and Pennsylvania cases is nothing more than a coincidence, and the missing tests in Pennsylvania eventually appeared and were scored.

Molly Vincent, whose 17-year-old daughter’s answer sheet was among those lost in Iowa, said ACT’s notification interferes with looming scholarship application deadlines. Her daughter, a senior at North Polk High School in Alleman, has already been accepted to Iowa State University based on a past ACT score, but Vincent said she retook the test to improve her chances of receiving scholarship money.

“Thousands of dollars in scholarships are on the line,” Vincent said.

Johnston County Community School District spokeswoman Laura Sprague said the district is “leaving no stones unturned to get to the bottom of this.”

“That’s why we are working to understand what might have happened,” she said. “We feel we owe this to the students and their parents.”

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