College student sues over test requirement

Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A University of Alaska Fairbanks student denied admission to the school's student teaching program because he failed a standardized test is appealing the decision in court.

William Hunt, 43, who was studying for his bachelor's degree in education at UAF, applied to become a student teacher for the spring 2000 semester. Though he had a high grade point average, school officials believed his reading and writing skills were deficient and ordered him to pass a standardized test, the Praxis exam, before he could enter the program. Hunt failed the exam.

Hunt's attorney, Bill Satterberg, said in District Court on Monday that Hunt should not have been required to pass the test because it was not specified in the course catalog when he enrolled.

''The university is telling us that the catalog means nothing,'' Satterberg said.

The Praxis exam was put into effect as a requirement for student teaching two years after Hunt enrolled. Satterberg, however, said UAF students have the right to graduate based on the requirements of any course catalog they choose, as long as it is issued within seven years of their entry into the school.

''Mr. Hunt's writing needs improvement,'' Satterberg said. But he said Hunt is an aspiring math teacher and English skills would be secondary to his career. ''The bottom line is math is his forte.''

University counsel Paul Eaglin said the university's decision to impose the Praxis exam on Hunt was the result of legitimate and necessary concern about his English skills.

''They were rather concerned -- deeply, in fact -- about his writing and his reading,'' he said. ''They chose to decide to guide him along.''

Eaglin said UAF's imposition of the exam requirement was within the university's bounds as an educational institution.

''I think that's what should guide this court here,'' Eaglin argued, noting that Alaska courts have a tradition of deferring to schools in such matters.

Satterberg said the course catalog constitutes a legal agreement between the university and students, meaning the case's domain stretches outside the realm of academia.

''I think we are clearly dealing with a contract issue here,'' he stated.

Judge Mark Wood is expected to issue a ruling within 30 days.

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