Remember the SAT scandal last March, when nearly 5,000 college-bound students learned that their tests had been misscored? That was no fluke, say Bloomberg reporters David Glovin and David Evans. Bad tests and faulty scoring, their new report says, have affected "at least 500,000 people taking tests from 2000 through 2006 -- from Nevada third graders to aspiring teachers."
The SAT snafu was a hardware problem, but human scorers are also fallible – and sometimes unqualified. Florida's testing contract specified that scorers would have bachelor's degrees in academic subjects, but the records show that promise wasn't kept:
A person from Hungary wrote he was a "pyshical education'' major. A physical education major from Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina, wrote that she had attended "Methidist College.''
Sometimes the problem is the test itself:
In 2003, the Minnesota Department of Education found flaws in questions proposed by [its test provider]. About 6 percent had no correct answers or multiple correct answers.
Money, of course, plays a part, especially when companies bid on low-margin No Child Left Behind contracts.
Companies often scrimp when they bid on No Child contracts, Eduventures analyst Tim Wiley says. . . . ``As with any bidding situation, it definitely requires a lot of cost cutting,'' Wiley says. ``Or, in some cases, cutting corners.''
Educational Testing Service, which wrongly flunked 4,100 teachers on certification tests, will pay $11 million to settle their lawsuit. But one of those teachers, fired after four "failures" on the test, remains bitter: ``I was just about to get tenure, and I had to start all over again.''
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.