Sure; blame it on the humidity

Or maybe it was allergies. Or giant cockroaches. The little SAT scoring mishap that’s been in the news all over the country did, in fact, occur right here in Austin. I’ve been wondering. At first, the story was reported as involving a few scores sent to colleges around the country. Then, there seemed to be quite a lot of mention of Texas students. Along the way, Pearson came into the picture. Today, in a front-page story in the NYT (reported by Karen W. Arenson and Diana B. Henriques; sign in to see it there; or see a syndicated version) entitled “Company’s Errors on SAT Scores Raise New Qualms About Testing,” Pearson claims that the errors arose partly “because of excessive moisture that caused the answer sheets to expand before they were scanned at the company’s large test-processing site in Austin, Tex.”

The numbers of test-takers affected was at first reported to be few but now to be at least 4,000. The discrepancies in scores were at first said to be about 100 points, but there has been a mention or two of some scores deviating by as many as 400 points in a few cases.

Austin, because of its high population of the proverbial Ph.D. holders waiting on tables and driving cabs, has long been a place where the written portions of standardized tests are scored. Harcourt used to be big in the business; recently, at certain times of the year, the Chron runs an add seeking scorers for Pearson. It appears that the standardised portions of some of these tests have been outsourced as well.

Boom times in Austin have never made the scoring business go elsewhere. That kind of hourly piecework beats the alternatives of selling blood plasma or volunteering to be a human guinea pig at one of the pharmaceutical-testing outfits when the money runs short. Just ask any non-physician non-tenured doctor or one of the under-employed clientless attorneys sharing office space with other sole practitioners. This is the knowledge economy at work.

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