Friday, March 10, 2006

Pearson fails SAT

Freak accident or part of a long, continuous series of stories just like this one? You decide.

By the way, Pearson blamed the problem on "excessive moisture" in their facility here in Austin, Texas. I can tell you, folks, unless they had some leaky faucets, there has been hardly any moisture at all -- much less excessive -- in Austin for about a year now. Most of Texas is in the midst of a painful drought.

This is a strange story and should certainly lead to some more much-deserved chinks in high-stakes testing's armor.

The mistakes, which the company, Pearson Educational Measurement, acknowledged yesterday, raised fresh questions about the reliability of the kinds of high-stakes tests that increasingly dominate education at all levels. Neither Pearson, which handles state testing across the country, nor the College Board detected the scoring problems until two students came forward with complaints.

"The story here is not that they made a mistake in the scanning and scoring but that they seem to have no fail-safe to alert them directly and immediately of a mistake," said Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "To depend on test-takers who challenge the scores to learn about system failure is not good."

These were not the first major scoring problems that Pearson has experienced. The company agreed in 2002 to settle a large lawsuit over errors in scoring 8,000 tests in Minnesota that prevented several hundred high school seniors from graduating. It also has made significant scoring errors in Washington and Virginia.

After those problems, company officials had assured clients that they had vastly improved their quality control. But the new problems on the October SAT turned out to be the most significant scoring errors that the College Board had experienced.

Pearson said yesterday that the SAT errors, which affected 4,000 students out of 495,000 who took the October test, arose partly because of excessive moisture that caused the answer sheets to expand before they were scanned at the company's large test-processing site in Austin, Tex.


Blogger Amerloc said...

Hmmm. Just noticed that your "about" info had changed. I'd have noticed sooner if it hadn't been so humid in Taylor...

7:22 PM  

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