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December 13, 2013
Pearson’s nonprofit arm agrees to pay $7.7 million to settle investigation
The education-publishing giant Pearson Inc.’s nonprofit arm will pay $7.7 million mainly to fund a teacher recruitment program in order to settle an investigation into…
September 13, 2013
After two companies botch test scoring, city to recoup money
The city canceled a contract with one testing vendor and won't get charged by another after the companies bungled exam scoring in separate incidents earlier this year, the education department announced today. Officials announced this afternoon that they are canceling a $9.7 million contract after the vendor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, botched a new electronic grading process for the city's Regents exams, causing confusion for tens of thousands of students who needed scores to graduate or move onto the next grade. The city will also recoup $2.1 million from Pearson for major errors during its administration of a gifted exam. The news comes less than three months after officials sought to downplay the issues, which included a series of technical glitches that resulted from logistical problems, faulty software and low school bandwidth. Spokeswoman Erin Hughes said the department was still negotiating how much money it would recoup from the contract, which was in its second year of a three-year deal. As a result of the cancellation, she said, the city planned to move back to paper-and-pencil scoring in 2014.
September 5, 2013
Many teachers still waiting on textbooks for new city curriculum
Teachers across the city said they still haven't received all of the textbooks and teaching materials for the new city curriculum aligned with Common Core standards. During the two days of professional development this week, some teachers were told to use old books and curricular materials or to find content online until new materials arrive. "Without the curriculum set up, and no professional development for it, I have no idea what I'm walking into," said Ellen Driesen, a teachers union representative for District 20 in Brooklyn. In August, NY1's Lindsey Christ reported that most of the new teaching materials had not arrived at schools and that "several teaching guides are scheduled to arrive after schools should have used them," frustrating teachers' attempts to plan lessons before the start of the year.
July 24, 2013
King won't change cut score advice for new Common Core tests
Contrasting his administration to previous ones, which have been criticized for inflating state test scores, State Education Commissioner John King agreed to accept proficiency bars recommended by a committee of educators with no revisions, as captured in this simple slide. Commissioner John King pledged this week to accept the "cut scores" recommended to him by a committee of educators, one of the final steps remaining before the state releases results from the state tests. Cut scores determine the number of right answers students need on state English and math tests to be deemed proficient in the subjects. The announcement at this month's Board of Regents meeting came in the middle of a detailed 46-page slideshow presentation outlining how the "cut score" recommendations were made. But while the other slides were packed with numbers, graphs, and paragraphs, King's 10-word acceptance of the standards got its own simple slide: "The Commissioner accepted recommendations from Day 5 with no changes." (The full slideshow is below the jump.) The flourish was a signal of the new transparency the department is trying to project around test scoring. In 2009, under then-Commissioner Richard Mills, dramatic improvements on state tests that had been seen as signs of academic progress across the state came under scrutiny for being inflated — not representing actual learning gains. The inflation seems to have been the result of several factors, including focused test prep by teachers who became increasingly familiar with the tests. But at least one observer, Sol Stern, has reported that state officials might have deliberately inflated results by lowering cut scores so that more students would be deemed proficient. Commissioners do not have to accept the recommendations of the committee of educators that suggests where to set the scores.
June 20, 2013
City had concerns about McGraw-Hill, but lowball offer won out
There was apparently a better choice than CTB McGraw-Hill to oversee the new electronic grading system that this week faltered in spectacular fashion: Pearson. But Pearson's services could have cost the city nearly three times as much as McGraw-Hill's, a bargain that the Department of Education concluded was worth the risk, according to details about the contract submitted to the Panel for Educational Policy for approval last year. "The near-term advantages achieved from Pearson's proposal did not warrant its significantly higher cost," the contract document says. A litte more than a year after the city inked the contract — a three-year, $9.7 million deal — the ambitious scoring system developed by McGraw-Hill is under fire for a series of sweeping technical glitches that has left tens of thousands of students wondering how they did on their end-of-year state exams. Many of those students are seniors whose graduation is contingent on passing the exams even as ceremonies began this week. "I've been doing grading for 18 years and this is the absolute worst," said Dino Sferrazza, a social studies teacher at Benjamin Cardozo High School.
June 14, 2013
Finally, G&T admissions letters go out, but good news is scarcer
A chart prepared by the Department of Educations shows the proportion of children screened for gifted programs who were deemed eligible, applied, and were offered a seat in a program in the last three years. The department offered seats in gifted programs to fewer applicants this year than in the past. A smaller proportion of applicants to city gifted programs this year will get good news in placement letters that the city mailed today, nearly a month after it was originally supposed to notify families.
May 28, 2013
State senator asks for test-item transparency
Link: State senator asks for test-item transparency State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents part of Manhattan, has written to State Education Commissioner John King…
May 21, 2013
City Council officially petitions state to bar in-school field testing
The New York City Council is calling on state officials to do away "immediately" with standalone field tests, just weeks before thousands of city students are scheduled to take the tests. Speaker Christine Quinn and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson made the demand in a letter today to State Education Commissioner John King, and the full council is expected to pass a resolution Wednesday calling for the same change. Test-makers use field testing to try out questions before they count, to see whether they are likely to provide useful results about student achievement in the future. Last month's state reading and math tests, which were aligned to new standards known as the Common Core for the first time, included some field questions that did not factor into students' scores. Now, 3,300 schools across the state are being told to administer hourlong, standalone field tests to some students next month. That requirement has elicited consternation from families and educators who believe that students have already spent enough time taking tests for the year. Some of them plan to boycott the field tests, as a number did last year when field tests were given for the first time.
May 10, 2013
City could cancel Pearson G&T contract after new error revealed
Department of Education officials say a fourth error by Pearson in grading city students' gifted screening exams could be the final straw in their contract with the testing supergiant. Last month, the department announced that Pearson had made three serious errors when grading the screening tests, leading to nearly 5,000 children getting scores that were lower than they deserved. The department issued new score reports and extended the deadline for applying to gifted programs by three weeks. Today, on the new application deadline, the department revealed that Pearson had made yet another error. Like the first ones, the mistake was detected only after a parent asked for an explanation of how her child's score had been calculated, officials said. About 300 additional students' scores were artificially depressed because of the latest error, according to the department. Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement that he had lost confidence in Pearson after the company had convinced him that its second attempt to get the scoring right had been thorough and accurate. "This failure to complete the basic quality assurance checks Pearson confirmed that they had completed is deeply disturbing," Walcott said. "For this reason, the Department of Education is reviewing a variety of options, including terminating Pearson's contract.”
May 1, 2013
Inequities grew after city fixed Pearson's G&T screening errors
Pearson's errors when grading city students' screening tests for gifted programs did not affect all test-takers equally. Children in districts with many white and Asian families — who make up more than 70 percent of students in gifted programs, despite being just a third of the city's student population — were most likely to have learned that their score was higher than they had been told, according to data the Department of Education released today. The good news came much more infrequently in districts that are heavily black and Hispanic. The department announced nearly two weeks ago that Pearson, the testing company, had botched the scores of nearly 5,000 children who were screened for gifted programs. Instead of slightly fewer children qualifying than last year, as the department initially said had happened, children had met the eligible requirements at a record rate. Today, the department released an updated breakdown of where children qualifying for gifted programs live. The data reinforce the fact that the department's overhaul of the screening process — which included a test that was billed as harder to game — seems to have done little to chip away at longstanding inequities in the racial makeup of students in gifted programs.
April 22, 2013
Pearson's NYC misstep draws state education officials' concern
ALBANY — State education officials expressed doubt today about whether the testing firm Pearson, which has several contracts in New York, can handle its expanding workload. "Obviously, the public is starting to question, I think, very aggressively with us whether or not they're able to manage all of the things they've taken on," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said of Pearson, whose subsidiary testing company NCS Pearson, Inc. has a five-year, $32 million contract to create tests for the state. Tisch, who has criticized the testing company before, was responding to Pearson's latest misstep in test administration. On Friday, the New York City Department of Education said nearly 5,000 students were told they were ineligible for the city's Gifted & Talented programs when they actually should have made the cut. Three separate errors took place during test grading, which Pearson oversaw, department and company officials both said.
April 19, 2013
Pearson's gifted test score errors affected thousands of families
In the latest in a series of embarrassing snafus, the testing company Pearson miscalculated thousands of city students' scores on tests to screen for giftedness. According to the Department of Education, 2,698 children who were told they did not hit the city's threshold for gifted and talented program eligibility actually made the cut. Another 2,037 children had scores high enough to apply to citywide gifted programs, but were told they could apply only to less elite district programs. Together, Pearson miscalculated the scores of 13.2 percent of test takers — and undercounted the number of test takers to hit the city's threshold by 30 percent. Originally, the department had said that just 9,020 students hit the eligibility threshold. The updated numbers mean that far more students are competing for seats in the city's gifted programs than ever before, even though the city changed the admission process this year to make it harder to game. Pearson and the department disclosed the massive error — to which they said parents had alerted them — just before 4:30 p.m. today, just hours before the deadline for eligible families to finalize their applications with the city Department of Education. But officials at the testing company and the department have known for a week about the mistakes, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
April 19, 2013
Pearson admits major errors in gifted and talented exam scoring
A major screwup by the testing company Pearson caused some children to be told they did not make the cut for city gifted programs when in fact they scored high enough to be admitted. It's a Friday news dump of epic proportions, at least for the thousands of city families that had their children tested for gifted and talented eligibility this year. Previously, the city had said 9,020 students had scored above the 90th percentile on two tests, making them eligible for admission to G&T programs. The real number is higher, Pearson and the Department of Education said. Pearson, which has had a rocky road in New York in recent years, is sending a letter to parents that contains a lengthy mea culpa. "Pearson has an established record in this field and we depend on its professionalism and deep capacity to deliver for the public. But in this case they let our children and families down," said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. "I have told the company’s officials in no uncertain terms that I expect this will never happen again." We'll have a more complete story soon, including numbers of how many families are affected, but for now, here's Pearson's letter to parents and Walcott's public statement.
March 7, 2013
Eschewing Pearson, state goes back to McGraw-Hill for GED
Nearly a year after Pearson, the testing company, took a public beating for mistakes on the exams it produced for New York State, state education officials are piling on. Today, the State Education Department announced that the state will forgo a new high school equivalency exam made by Pearson in favor of its own exam, which the publishing company McGraw-Hill will produce. The state announced that it would consider other vendors to create an equivalency test after Pearson partnered with the non-profit group that had previously produced the GED, which people who have not graduated from high school can take to show they are prepared for college, work, or the military. Cost was a major concern: Pearson's test will cost $120 to start, twice what the current exam costs. "While the GED was run by a not-for-profit, the system worked fairly well. But a Pearson GED monopoly would put our students at the mercy of Pearson’s pricing," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement today. "We can’t let price deny anyone the opportunity for success. That’s why, rather than pay Pearson twice the current cost or limit the number of students who can take the exam, the Regents approved a competitive process to develop a new assessment."
August 13, 2012
A year after NewsCorp doomed school data deal, SED tries again
A year after the state comptroller canceled a no-bid contract for a statewide student data system, the State Education Department has announced new contracts for the delayed project. Four companies were awarded parts of a $50 million federal grant to develop the infrastructure for an "education data portal" that would serve as a hub of information for schools and teachers. One of the subcontractors is Wireless Generation, the company that lost the original $27 million contract. The portal is meant to allow educators to track and use student performance data and exchange information about curriculum and instructional practices across the state. It was one of several new initiatives the state vowed to carry out in its 2010 application for the federal Race to the Top funding competition, in which New York netted $700 million. "The Education Data Portal is an integral element of the Regents reform agenda and was an essential component of New York’s Race to the Top application," said Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., in a statement. The state's Race to the Top application promised to roll out the data system in October 2012 — two months from now. By a year from now, the portal was to serve 90 percent of the state’s intended audience, according to the Race To The Top application. That timeline suffered a significant setback last year when state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli rejected the $27 million contract that was given exclusively to Wireless Generation, the Brooklyn-based education software developer.
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