Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Are Teachers The Only Ones Held Accountable?
Students' test rulers don't measure up
Mismarked tools supplied by state create what teachers say is even more stress during assessments
BY JOHN HILDEBRAND
March 13, 2007
Teachers now administering the state's annual math tests complain that, this year, Albany has come up a little short.
The problem: 1.1 million plastic protractors mailed out by the state last month with test packets are missing 1/16th of an inch from the four-inch ruler along the bottom of the angle-measuring tools.
Moreover, 1.6 million plastic rulers also sent out by the state are irregularly marked, with quarter-inch hash marks that are shorter than three-quarter-inch marks. Those lines are equal on standard rulers.
The State Education Department says it purchased the Chinese-made devices for $324,000 through a state-approved vendor, United Supply Corp. of Brooklyn, which did not return calls for comment yesterday.
Department officials first became aware of the flaws Feb. 28, through a call from a regional BOCES agency serving schools in the Syracuse area. In response, Steven Katz, the department's assessment director, wrote that the protractors and rulers were "the best plastic measurement tools that the Department was able to procure in the large volume required at a reasonable cost."
Eileen Welch, coordinator of math and science for the Brentwood school district, Long Island's largest, said the situation "just adds to the frustration and stress."
Like many colleagues, Welch fears the faulty devices could add to pressures on the more than 200,000 Long Island students already harried by hours of testing. Statewide tests for students in grades 3-8 began last week and continue through this week.
Scores won't be compiled until the end of this month. But education department officials who had hoped the measuring equipment would ensure uniformity in testing say they don't expect flaws to affect students' marks. These officials add that the protractors are used only for measuring angles, not lengths.
Mary Sennett, a math specialist who initially alerted BOCES to the problem says she's never seen rulers marked this way before.
Sennett, who works at a school serving Native American students 10 miles south of Syracuse, thinks it's ironic that state testing officials should suggest that flawed equipment is good enough.
"They are holding us to a very high standard within our district - we are expected to have most of the kids passing," Sennett said. "So now I think these people should be doing the best they can."
Number of plastic protractors that had 1/16 inch missing from the ruler across the bottom
Amount State Education Department says it spent on the state-approved devices, which were made in China.
Number of state-issued plastic rulers that had quarter-inch hash marks that were shorter than the three-quarter inch marks. On standard rulers, those lines are of equal length.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.