Saturday, March 18, 2006

SAT Errors: An Invisible Partner? or, Testing in Fantasia

You may have seen TV or newspaper coverage this past week regarding errors on October's SAT test for 4,000 high school students. Reportedly, the discrepancies ranged from 10 to 200 points on the now 2,400-point exam. Both FOX and Los Angeles Times reports included contact with representatives of the nonprofit College Board founded in 1900, whose best known "educational quality" programs include the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT and AP exams.

FairTest reiterated its call for government regulation of the testing industry. (Remember: there are currently no legal restrictions on high stakes tests, no accountability for the accountability-makers, represented by the Association of Test Publishers, or ATP.)

An interesting sidenote: No report has pointed out that the College Board doesn't score its own exams. The nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS)--last Fall granted a lucrative monopoly on scoring and administering the High School Exit Exam program for the state of California--is the exclusive scoring entity for the SAT and other College Board tests.

Somehow, ETS has been well insulated from the latest national gaffe.

But it's a small world after all. Yesterday, a story appeared about an error in scoring the California High School Exit exam for 400 Long Beach sophomores, who will need to retake the exam because answer sheets were misplaced en route to the scoring site. ETS spokesperson Tom Ewing insisted that it was "fairly rare" for answer sheets to be lost. But look at the layers of the story: California-contracted ETS had subcontracted Pearson Educational Measurement to subcontract arrangements for transportation of the score sheets. The courier DHL seems a too-convenient scapegoat, and even Long Beach School District officials seem way too pacified that ETS has admitted the error (um, what else could ETS do? as yet, there's no magic wand for missing tests). Kudos to the Long Beach Press-Telegram for covering the story.

So Friends, who's keeping score on the scorekeepers? (I've heard a rumor that one teacher plans a visit to ETS's annual "teacher leadership" conference at the end of June. Where? Why Walt Disney World, of course!)

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