NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Faulty Tests Send Children To Summer School

September 15, 1999

Scoring errors on a test published by CTB/McGraw Hill forced thousands of New York City students to attend summer school. The company says similar errors had occurred on tests given in other parts of the country. While CTB/McGraw Hill wouldn't say how many or which other jurisdictions had been affected by the problem, school officials in New York City claim the company told them nine others were affected.

  • The error has handed ammunition to educators who claim that the high-stakes tests alone should not determine which students are routed to summer schools -- that other factors, such as homework performance and the judgment of teachers should be considered.
  • The company said that scores were wrong for 4,500 students, or 3 percent of the 150,000 students in a national sample.
  • A group called Advocates for Children is challenging in court New York's summer school program -- which has the strong backing of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has argued that one way to improve schools is to get tough with failing students.
  • The mistake came in a percentile score that showed how the students compared with a national sample of children across the country.

The publisher gave the test questions to a sample of students in different cities. In some cases, the company used answers from the wrong questions in computing the norm, or national average.

Critics of the test contend that it is possible some children passed the test last spring, were sent to summer school by mistake, and then failed the test at the end of the summer, forcing them to repeat the grade.

New York City school officials are considering whether to sue the company -- which received $2 million in testing contracts from the city last year.

Source: Anemona Hartocollis, "New York Reveals Test Score Errors," New York Times, September 15, 1999.


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