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A brief history of Pearson’s problems with testing

A few days ago I wrote a post about how Pearson, the world’s largest education company, was forced to apologize for making errors in its scoring of assessments for entry into gifted-and-talented programs in New York City public schools. I noted that it was hardly the only time Pearson has had problems with testing. Here’s a list of problems that the company has had with standardized tests over the years, in different states. It was compiled by Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, or the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a non-profit dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests.


1998 California – test score delivery delayed

1999-2000 Arizona – 12,000 tests misgraded due to flawed answer key


2000 Florida – test score delivery delayed resulting in $4 million fine


2000 Minnesota misgraded 45,739  graduation tests leads to lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.”  — (FairTest consulted with plaintiffs’ attorneys)


2000 Washington – 204,000 writing WASL exams rescored

2002 Florida — dozens of school districts received no state grades for their 2002 scores because of a “programming error” at the DOE. One Montessori school never received scores because NCS Pearson claimed not to have received the tests.


2005 Michigan — scores delayed and fines levied per contract


2005 Virginia   —  computerized test misgraded – five students awarded $5,000 scholarships


2005-2006 SAT college admissions test – 4400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit (note FairTest was an expert witness for plaintiffs)


2008 South Carolina –“Scoring Error Delays School Report Cards” The State, November 14, 2008


2008-2009 Arkansas — first graders forced to retake exam because real test used for practice


2009-2010 Wyoming – Pearson’s new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state declares company in “complete default of the contract;” $5.1 million fine accepted after negotiations but not pursued by state governor


2010 Florida test score delivery delayed by more than a month – nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid.  School superintendents still question score accuracy —


2010 Minnesota–   results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students delayed due to scoring error


2011 Florida – some writing exams delivered to districts without cover sheets, revealing subject students would be asked to write about


2011 Florida – new computerized algebra end-of-course exam delivery system crashes on first day of administration

2011 Oklahoma – “data quality issues” cause “unacceptable” delay in score delivery ; Pearson ultimately replaced by CTB/McGraw Hill


2011 Guamscore release delayed because results based on erroneous comparison data; government seeking reimbursement


2011 Iowa – State Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Board opens investigation of Iowa Education Department director Jason Glass for participating in all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil sponsored by Pearson Foundation


2011 New York – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenas financial records from Pearson Education and Pearson Foundation concerning their sponsorship of global junkets for dozens of state education leaders


2011 Wyoming – Board of Education replaces Pearson as state’s test vendor after widespread technical problems with online exam


2012 New York – “Pineapple and the Hare” nonsense test question removed from exams after bloggers demonstrate that it was previously administered in at least half a dozen other states


2012 New York – More than two dozen additional errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson


2012 Florida – After percentage of fourth grades found “proficient” plunges from 81% to 27% in one year, state Board of Education emergency meeting “fixes” scores on FCAT Writing Test by changing definition of proficiency.


2012 Virginia – Error on computerized 3rd and 6th grade SOL tests causes state to offer free retakes.


2012 New York – Parents have their children boycott “field test” of new exam questions because of concerns about Pearson’s process


2012 Oklahoma – After major test delivery delays, state replaces Pearson as its testing contractor

2012 New York – More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests


2012 New York – State officials warn Pearson about potential fines if tests have more errors


2012 Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others


2012 Texas – Pearson computer failure blocks thousands of students from taking state-mandated exam by displaying error message at log on


2013 New York – Passage from Pearson test-prep book appears in Pearson-designed statewide test, giving unfair advantage to students who used those materials


2013 New York – Pearson scoring error blocks 2,700 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · April 23, 2013

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