An error on the part of Pearson, the company that developed New York City Schools "Gifted and Talented" exam, means many students who were told they didn't qualify for the program actually did, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement released late Friday afternoon.
The error affects more than 4,735 test takers -- about 13 percent of the students who took the exam, according to the Department of Education.
Of those students, 2,698 who didn't qualify for the gifted and talented program now qualify for district programs.
Another 2,037 who previous qualified for district programs are even more gifted and talented than they thought -- they now qualify for citywide programs as well.
All students who were previously told they qualify for the programs still do.
"After an exhaustive review of Pearson's data, it is clear to us that due to the company's errors, many students who were recently notified that they did not qualify for G&T now qualify for district programs," Walcott said. "In addition, many other students who didn't previously qualify for city wide programs now do."
Despite Walcott's wording, it wasn't so much Pearson that discovered the errors -- it was two parents who noticed scores didn't add up.
"Two parents initially brought their concerns to our attention. My team immediately asked Pearson to investigate," Walcott said. "Throughout this week, Pearson has been working to confirm the existence of errors, identify how many students were affected and rectify those errors."
The incorrect results were due to two errors -- some students being incorrectly categorized in the wrong age group, and the use of an incorrect scoring key....It's not the first time Pearson's in the spotlight. The test company, which also designs state exams, was lampooned last year for a confusing question about a talking pineapple on state exams. Many other questions were also struck from state exams due to errors last year.
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch bragged about the quality of the 3rd-8th grade "assessments" Pearson developed based upon the Common Core standards and noted that, given how bad the Pearson tests were last year, lots of people didn't think they could pull off quality tests this year:
"I would be so bold as to say they were better than most people expected them to be," she said.
Merryl Tisch should hold off before congratulating herself and Pearson for the quality of the 3rd-8th grade ELA tests just yet.
Because of the security and secrecy around the tests, there are lots of unanswered questions about them - especially around two major areas:
1. Time allotment - Many students were unable to complete the tests and teachers said the amount of time given for the tasks on the tests was nowhere near enough for students to finish
2. Product Placements - There are at least two cases of product brands, trademarks and advertising slogans put into the tests in footnotes, of all places. The NY Post reported a few more. Those instances need to be investigated - How did the product placements get into the tests? Why were the trademarks for the brands added? Who put the footnotes in?
In addition, teachers have said there were instances of two correct answers for questions. That needs to be investigated too.
Now Merryl Tisch may already be putting on her flight suit and declaring "Mission Accomplished!" with these Pearson 3rd-8th grade ELA tests, but because teachers are not allowed to talk about the tests and the contents cannot be revealed, we simply don't know just how bad these tests were.
But given the track record Pearson has on screwing things up majorly, from the Pineapple and Hare mess last year to this Gifted and Talented program mess this year, you can be sure there are problems with this year's Common Core tests.
Unfortunately because the state has an embargo around the test contents and is threatening to de-certify any teacher who talks about the contents of a test, we may never know just bad these Pearson 3rd-8th grade tests are.
Not unless parents really make a huge stink over them with their representatives in Albany.
In addition, it seems no matter how many major mistakes Pearson makes with the tests they develop for NY State, they are not going to have their contract voided and be sent packing.
It really is high time Pearson was sent packing from the state.
But you can bet Cuomo, who likes to appoint Pearson employees to important gigs in the NYSED, isn't going to be the person to do that.