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Pearson Admits To Testing Errors On New York Gifted And Talented Exams

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School buses wait to drop off children at school in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
School buses wait to drop off children at school in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thousands of students have been affected by multiple errors in calculating scores on entrance exams to New York City's gifted and talented programs, testing company Pearson admitted Friday.

In total, 4,735 students' tests had calculation errors, DNAInfo reports. According to the New York Daily News, around 2,700 children who qualified for the G&T programs were shut out because of the errors.

The company formally apologized Friday in a statement from Scott Smith, president of learning assessment at Pearson.

"It is clear that we had a breakdown in our processes and we are conducting a complete, extensive investigation of every step in our processes to fully understand how these errors occurred," Smith said. "In addition, we will bring in external experts to further review our processes and provide recommendations for further actions Pearson can take to prevent this from ever happening again."

An investigation was prompted after two parents contacted the New York Department of Education to question the formula used to calculate the results, Pearson said.

The city has a three-year, $5.5 million contract with Pearson, but The New York Times reports the government will withhold $500,000 as a result of the testing errors. The deadline for applying for the G&T programs has now been extended to May 10.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in a statement called on the city to reexamine its relationship with Pearson.

"Pearson has an increasingly checkered record with these tests. We were given the same assurances of quality control and heightened standards after last year's problems," de Blasio said. In New York City, at least 29 questions on math and English tests by Pearson were invalidated for various errors, the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2012.

De Blasio added, "It's time for the Department of Education to reassess its relationship with the company. We need to protect public school families and taxpayers from these rampant inaccuracies."

Pearson has also had scoring problems on its tests in Florida and Minnesota, the Washington Post notes.

And then there was a "talking pineapple" question that left students scratching their heads in April 2012.

"This is one blunder after another," Leonie Haimson, executive director of education advocacy group Class Size Matters, told the Daily News. "Pearson should be barred from any other testing contracts with New York. It is time for a change."

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