Quinn Slams State DOE for Using Kids as Standardized Test 'Guinea Pigs'

By Ben Fractenberg on May 20, 2013 5:04pm 

 Council Speaker Christine Quinn criticized what she sees as unnecessary standardized tests for kids.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn criticized what she sees as unnecessary standardized tests for kids.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

CITY HALL — New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called Monday for an end to what she called a stream of unnecessary standardized tests for city schoolchildren — saying it turns kids into "guinea pigs."

Quinn said public school children shouldn't be forced any longer to take private testing companies' field tests, which aren't graded, and which are only intended to help for-profit companies such as Pearson develop questions for the next year's exams.

"We have become obsessed with standardized testing in New York City. And there is probably no clearer example of it than field testing," Quinn said at City Hall Monday, during an unrelated press conference. "They are not learning English. They're not learning social studies. They're not learning math. They're taking tests."

Quinn added that she plans to ask the New York State Department of Education to end the practice "ASAP."

Quinn also blasted Pearson for errors the company made in grading this year's gifted and talented exam, which were revealed only after parents raised questions with the DOE. Pearson admitted the company incorrectly graded thousands of students' tests, resulting in incorrect scores. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has since threatened to terminate Pearson's contract with the city.

"Pearson gets quite a lot of money to conduct these tests. Tests, which they seem, quite frankly, unable to grade," Quinn said, "But that said, Pearson gets a ton of money to develop and do these test. They need to develop next year's questions on their own. And we need to stop pulling children out of a learning environment to have them be Pearson's guinea pigs."

Pearson has acknowledged the gifted and talented grading errors and promised to find out what went wrong.

"The fact that these errors occurred is simply unacceptable to Pearson as we fully understand the importance of accurate scoring," Scott Smith, president of learning assessment, said in a statement. "We successfully score millions of high-stakes tests for customers throughout the world and believe that our scoring processes adhere to the best practices in the industry. It is clear that we had a breakdown in our processes and we are conducting a complete, extensive investigation of every step in our processes to fully understand how these errors occurred."

Pearson reps said Monday that they are not responsible for deciding whether field testing is done in schools.

"Pearson doesn't set policy but rather works with state Departments of Education to help them implement their policies," Pearson spokeswoman Susan Aspey told DNAinfo New York in an email.

The state DOE defended the practice, saying the field tests "ensure the validity and reliability" for student assessments. 

"They ensure that assessments are reliable and valid for their intended purposes, including the provision of useful information to teachers, students, and their families to help improve instruction and student learning," the state DOE wrote in an email to DNAinfo New York.

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