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Education Workers Scramble to Study For Test to Keep Their Jobs

 Some 4,000 Education Department will have to take civil service exams for the first time — and it's set many into a panic, forming study groups to get ready.
Some 4,000 Education Department will have to take civil service exams for the first time — and it's set many into a panic, forming study groups to get ready.
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NEW YORK CITY — The testers have become the test-takers — and they're freaking out about it.

A panic has swept through Tweed Hall in the past two months as thousands of city Department of Education workers have learned they need to take a civil service examination for the first time to keep their jobs, sources say.

The DOE employees — who work on the administrative side, many under the title of analyst — have grown so worried about flunking the exam that they've set up study groups and are racing to purchase prep tests, the sources said.

"There is a mix of fear and panic over it — and also outrage," a DOE source told DNAinfo New York.

The required exam is the result of a decision by the state's court of appeals, which ruled in 2007 that all municipalities in New York, including the city, must reduce the number of provisional employees they have to make the job selection process for civil servants more fair.

Provisional employees hold competitively filled city positions without having taken a civil service exam for the job or having been selected from a ranked list of eligible candidates. Under the decision, the city must create more exams for job positions and rank the test-takers by their scores.

About 12.5 percent of the city's workforce, or nearly 23,000 people, are provisional employees. Many  have worked for the city for years.

Their numbers swelled under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who disliked the civil service exams process, viewing it as a system that favors good test-takers who excelled at memorizing bureaucratic minutiae and procedure rather than the candidate with the most experience and best skill set.

To satisfy the court decision, the city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services began a five-year plan to schedule exams for positions held by provisional employees in various agencies. But the plan's implementation has been slow-going and was extended to Dec. 31, 2016.

The Education Department began notifying its 3,000 provisional employees in January that they need to register for the exams. It's also told permanent employees that some will have to take the test for promotions.

Since then, workers have harped over the exams like parents talking about the Common Core curriculum.

"The whole building is abuzz," a DOE source said. "There have been a number of presentations and study groups forming. The level at which people are talking about this is like when we were getting a new chancellor— and it was like all day long and distracting."

To get a better understanding of the tests, employees crammed into four noontime information sessions at Tweed in early February.

But DOE employees say they are frustrated that they don't know what's going to be on the test and what score they need to keep their jobs. Many of the exams for their jobs haven't been given since the 1990s, so it's tough to tell if questions will remain the same or change, a DOE source said.

And while many have registered for multiple tests — paying as much as $130 — in the past month, DCAS hasn't set a date for the exams.

"People are not getting answers," one DOE employee said.

A DOE spokesman declined to comment.