An error in the testing office of the city Department of Education caused officials to overstate test-score gains last spring in the schools operated by Education Alternative Inc., according to an investigation by the city auditor.
Allan Reynolds, the auditor, told the City Council's Education and Human Resources Committee yesterday that someone in the Education Department, "unintentionally, we believe," substituted 1991 results for 1994 results in June, when the department was preparing a news release on results of the 1994 Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills.
The resulting rosy report was touted as proof of large achievement gains in the eight "Tesseract" elementary schools operated for profit by the Minneapolis firm.
But final results released and reported in October showed that reading and math scores generally declined in the EAI schools between 1992 and 1994, while rising districtwide.
Mr. Reynolds' audit, requested by two council members, appeared to put the dispute to rest. "Basically, it says we were sloppy and didn't use good methods," said 2nd District Councilman Carl Stokes, chairman of the committee and one of those requesting the audit. "I'm satisfied that there was nothing underhanded."
The audit also looked at why so many students at the Tesseract schools scored a "one" -- the lowest possible result -- in the 1994 test.
Mr. Reynolds said when scores were counted only for students who had been in a given school for both years of testing -- as opposed to those who moved from school to school -- the number of "ones" was reduced by 25 percent.
L'Tanya W. Sloan, chief of accountability for the system, told the committee that adjusting the scores for the "ones" did not appreciably change the results for any of the EAI schools.