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More Scoring Errors Uncovered for Gifted and Talented Exam

By Amy Zimmer | May 10, 2013 5:30pm
 Fewer children took the G&T exam this year — a dip of nearly 3,300 kids — particularly in outer-borough school districts with poorer students.
Fewer children took the G&T exam this year — a dip of nearly 3,300 kids — particularly in outer-borough school districts with poorer students.
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NEW YORK CITY — City school officials threatened to fire the testing giant Pearson after yet another error on this year's gifted and talented exam was revealed, the Department of Education announced Friday.

Because of Pearson's latest mistake, some 146 students became eligible for G&T district programs or saw their rankings bumped up to the five elite citywide programs requiring a score at or above the 97th percentile.

Nearly 160 others students saw their percentile ranks improve within the programs they previously qualified for, including 25 who shot up from the 97th or 98th percentile into the 99th percentile — making the already tough competition for the top slots even fiercer.

This error comes on the heels of one announced two weeks ago that affected nearly 5,000 students and prompted the DOE to demand Person take additional steps to check for other errors, officials said.

The company confirmed that it did so, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said.

"This failure to complete the basic quality assurance checks Pearson confirmed that they had completed is deeply disturbing," Walcott said in a statement. "For this reason the Department of Education is reviewing a variety of options including terminating Pearson's contract."

Pearson used a default test date rather than the one on students' answer sheets for roughly half the test takers, officials explained. It resulted in errors for some since students' scores are based on age at the time he or she took the test.

DOE officials extended the deadline for updated G&T applications to May 15 online and May 17 for in-person submissions at borough enrollment offices.

After the initial errors were revealed — and the 99th percentile ballooned to more than 2,560 kids — irate parents began calling on the DOE to check the numbers.

"Ninety-nine is meaningless the way they do it," Rare Benga, whose son got the top score told DNAinfo after the first snafu was revealed. "The entire methodology is highly suspect.”

Michael McCurdy, co-founder of Testing Mom, which helps parents with the G&T process, said parents had already been complaining because of previous errors.

"This entire gifted and talented testing debacle is beyond ridiculous," he said.  "The DOE and Pearson have both dropped the ball this year and need to be held accountable. Any parent who has a child who was tested should be outraged."

Pearson’s president of learning assessment, Scott Smith, said there was "no excuse" for the scoring errors and apologized to affected families.

"We have already begun to implement the multiple program changes requested by the New York City Department of Education," he said. "Pearson is taking all necessary measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again."