Riverside Splits Hairs to Defend Profits

K-12 Testing

At a January press conference, a coalition of Chicago school reform groups challenged Riverside Publishing, maker of the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP), to cease selling the exams to the Chicago Public Schools because the city violates the testmaker's own guidelines for proper test use.


The ITBS Interpretive Guide states that one inappropriate purpose is, "To decide to retain students at a grade level." It explains that "a test score from an achievement battery should not be used alone in making such a significant decision."


In a letter dated February 2, Riverside responded that Chicago's use of the tests "is not inconsistent with the guidelines." The company claimed that the tests "are not the only criterion used. While any one of the multiple indicators might trigger a retention event, this does not constitute using a test score alone to make the decision."


However, each year thousands of Chicago students who do not reach an arbitrary cut-off score on the ITBS at select grades are automatically scheduled for retention (see Examiner, Fall 1997). Students also can be held back if they do not pass their grade or have poor attendance. However, even with good grades and attendance, they must reach the test cut-off score in order to be promoted. Students who attend summer school but still do not score high enough on the test are retained. Parents can appeal, but there is no formal procedure, nor rules for deciding appeals, and many parents do not know about this option.


Riverside's self-serving interpretation of "used alone" is simply justification to continue to make millions of dollars from Chicago. The educational damage done to thousands of children is ignored. No matter how Riverside tries to distort the language, for thousands of Chicago school children test scores are the sole factor used "to decide to retain students at grade level."

-- See our fact sheet on retention and testing