NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Emphasis On Testing Imposes Responsibilities On Testing Firms

December 28, 2001

In pursuit of educational accountability, Congress has mandated student testing throughout the nation. But in recent years there have been serious instances of bungling by companies administering tests.

  • In 1999, six states detected errors in the scoring of the tests.
  • In New York City, more than 8,000 students were mistakenly forced to attend summer school and another 3,500 were mistakenly held back a grade.
  • During the past two years, thousands of Arizona students were affected by inaccurate math and reading scores on state exams.
  • In November, Maryland education officials noticed "wild swings" or fluctuations which were too great to be believable in the scores of schools -- culminating in a decision to delay releasing statewide results.

Most schools have relied on just three companies that design, publish and score tests. The "Big Three" are: Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTBMcGraw Hill, and Riverside Publishing. State testing directors warn that the publishers have a quality control problem stemming from the lack of competent test experts -- and a lack of accountability.

Critics complain that there are too few testing companies trying to swallow too much testing business. They warn that the problems will only grow now that testing is going nationwide.

Source: Editorial, "Poor-Quality Tests Threaten School Reform Efforts," USA Today, December 28, 2001.


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