Education Secretary Margaret Spellings summoned executives from testing companies and the College Board to a meeting Tuesday that focused on industry practices in the wake of a high-profile scoring error on the SAT college entrance exam.
Deputy Education Secretary Ray Simon said Spellings called the hour-long meeting in Washington to discuss the SAT error and try to evaluate whether the testing industry can accurately handle the growing number of high-stakes, state-level tests under the No Child Left Behind law.
"From the very beginning we had concerns about the capacity ... of the companies to handle NCLB testing," Simon said in a telephone briefing for reporters. "These things were brought to a head with some of the recent scoring errors that have been reported. Obviously we're concerned about that. Is that going to be a trend? Is it an aberration?"
Simon said the testing companies insisted they were not overburdened. One company said it could handle three times its current volume, Simon said.
Last month, the College Board revealed a scoring error by Pearson Educational Measurement had resulted in more than 4,000 high school students receiving incorrectly low scores on the SAT exam they took in October. Pearson said the problem may have been caused by excessive moisture on answer sheets due to wet weather.
That error focused wider attention on the testing industry. A recent report by Thomas Toch of the Washington-based group Education Sector argued that a shortage of testing experts and pressure on the companies to return scores to the states quickly could compromise accuracy.
Simon said additional meetings with the industry are planned, and will include state officials.
Attendees were officials from testing companies including Pearson, Harcout Assessment and McGraw-Hill Assessment and Reporting, along with industry groups, the College Board and the Educational Testing Service.