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Student Testing Company Was Warned of Problems

EDUCATION | IN BRIEF

September 29, 1999|Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A national student testing company was warned of problems in its ranking system four months before it admitted problems to the New York City Board of Education.

Tennessee education officials told CTB/McGraw-Hill last spring that its ranking system was wrong, figuring that the company would alert other states to the problem.

Instead, 8,600 students were mistakenly sent to summer school in New York City because of a scoring error, and the company has recently admitted problems with test results in Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Benjamin Brown, executive director of evaluation and assessment for the Tennessee Department of Education, believes the problems were preventable.

"It would seem to me that when that was brought to their attention by Tennessee, that they would have immediately looked at the scales more closely and discovered what they had done that would impact all these other places," Brown said.

Bill Jordan, spokesman for New York City-based McGraw Hill, which owns CTB testing company in Monterey, Calif., denied that the company ignored an early warning.

"It wouldn't necessarily raise a red flag," Jordan said of Tennessee's warning. "Several other jurisdictions looked at the data and said, 'It looks fine to us.' Others looked at it and said, 'Maybe we could make a few changes.' It depends on the states."

The explanation doesn't sit right with Mary Tiede Wilhelmus, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education, which used the same kind of CTB/McGraw Hill test as Tennessee.

Indiana first questioned the rankings in January. The company reviewed the data and, after its technicians visited the state in March for further evaluation, said it found no problems, Wilhelmus said.

"But we still had concerns that we couldn't explain away," she said.

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