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Pearson problems nothing new in testing world

Server problems that plagued Florida's computerized algebra end-of-course exam on Wednesday did nothing to polish the image of test-maker Pearson, which wrote and oversaw the new system for the state Department of Education.

Rather, it simply seemed to give critics more ammunition that the company, also responsible for last year's delayed and disputed FCAT results, might not be the best fit for the state's testing needs. Yet at the same time as the servers went down, Pearson officials held court in Pasco County with several Florida superintendents and testing coordinators to discuss how the firm will be implementing yet another key initiative, the state's adoption of the national core curriculum.

Pearson is one of just a handful of testing companies that remains, which gives it an edge in seeking such work regardless of its past. And that past is a virtual hit parade of the nation's biggest testing fiascos. Read on for the highlights, as compiled by FairTest.

PEARSON SCORE FOUL-UP HISTORY, by Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director, FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing (updated February, 2011)

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 – lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found "years of quality control problems" and a "culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting." -- (note FairTest consulted with plaintiffs' attorneys)

2000 Washington – 204,000 writing WASL exams rescored

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 – new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state ordered Pearson to repay $9.5 million for "complete default of the contract"

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

Posted by Jeff Solochek at 3:06:41 pm on May 18, 2011