DOE Weighs Ending Pearson Contract After Another Scoring Error

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Once again, a parent inquiry led to the detection of an error in Pearson's scoring of the gifted and talented admissions test, the fourth in a string of embarrassments for both the testing company and the city's Department of Education.

The D.O.E. announced Friday afternoon that an additional 82 students who did not previously qualify for G&T; are now eligible for district programs, while 64 students now qualify for the more competitive citywide programs.

This latest scoring mistake comes after the announcement of errors last month, which affected the eligibility of thousands of children.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott released a statement about the errors in which he said he'd consider terminating Pearson's three-year contract originally worth $5.5 million dollars:

“When the first error was identified, the Department required Pearson to take additional quality assurance steps to identify any additional errors, and before updated score reports were provided to families, Pearson confirmed that they had completed this process, and confirmed that the data they provided were accurate.

“However, the Department has determined that when Pearson went through this process, they failed to check the test date data they used in the score calculation against the test date data indicated on students’ answer sheets and did not identify that a default test date had been incorrectly applied. This failure to complete the basic quality assurance checks Pearson confirmed that they had completed is deeply disturbing; for this reason the Department of Education is reviewing a variety of options including terminating Pearson's contract.”

After last month's gaffe, Pearson's contract shrunk to $5 million.

Scott Smith, Pearson’s president of learning assessment, responded to this latest mistake Friday with a statement of his own, issuing a second apology in three weeks.

“There’s no excuse for the scoring errors made on the assessments used to determine eligibility for the New York City Gifted and Talented programs," Smith said. "We have already begun to implement the multiple program changes requested by the New York City Department of Education, and Pearson is taking all necessary measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We’ve extended our apologies to our colleagues at the NYC DOE, and we’re very sorry to all the families and students who have been affected.”

In this latest error, Pearson apparently applied an incorrect test date for about half of the students who took the test which affected how the age band for students was calculated. As a result, some students' overall percentile rank was incorrect.

The deadline to apply to G&T; programs has now been extended for a second time. Families can apply online through May 15 and in person at borough enrollment offices until May 17. The families of the more than 300 test takers affected by the error should expect phone calls from the D.O.E informing them of the changes.

At least one candidate for mayor jumped into the fray. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn sent out a statement calling for the termination of the city's contract with Pearson.

“Students know that there are consequences when you make repeated mistakes and it’s time Pearson learns that same lesson," the Democratic candidate said.

"The fact that Pearson has again failed to properly score the city’s gifted and talented tests and even more egregiously, lied about conducting quality assurance checks when correcting their first error, is totally unacceptable," Quinn added. "Any confidence city families had in Pearson has been irreparably damaged, and I urge the New York State Department of Education to learn from DOE’s experience, vet every stage of Pearson’s scoring of the state exams and carefully reconsider whether Pearson should be trusted with future state testing.”