Questions About Test Makers

    As the school year draws to a close, concern about standardized tests and the companies developing them was the hot topic at Tuesday’s meeting of the Amagansett School Board.

    Eleanor Tritt, the school’s superintendent, discussed continuing concerns about field-test questions embedded in tests developed by for-profit corporations such as Pearson Education, which creates and markets educational materials, technologies, and assessments.

    Of particular concern, Ms. Tritt said, is how these questions — newly developed questions that are being tested and evaluated before they can be used to determine a student’s score — are compelling students to spend considerable time on questions for which they will not be graded. “They spend time on those questions, and become frustrated when they are difficult,” she said. “That impacts the way in which they respond to, and have time for, the questions that they’re really being graded on.” Consequently, she said, students become disappointed in their own achievement through no fault of their own.

    Pearson’s reach into public education also extends to testing designed to assess how well schools are teaching state-developed learning standards. There is continuing concern that “the tests are being used to rate teachers,” Ms. Tritt said.

    She referred to an article in the Buffalo News in which parents and educators likened such testing to child labor and the use of children as guinea pigs. In 2011, the newspaper reported, Pearson won a $32 million state contract to design state tests that every student in third through eighth grade will be expected to take. The company’s involvement in the development of tests also raised questions as to whether schools using Pearson textbooks would gain an advantage on Pearson-developed tests. The concern, Ms. Tritt said, is that a corporate entity “is really benefiting, profiting from the education market.”

    “There’s continued pushback about the way the tests are being used and the financial awards to companies like Pearson that are becoming involved in the technology and administration of the test,” Ms. Tritt sai