Shredded Test Results Delay Probation Officer Promotions

The Boston Probation Department came under fire this week after a set of exams used to identify officers eligible for promotion were shredded.

The tests, made up of a question and answer section as well as an essay section, were inadvertently placed in a shredder alongside testing materials that were scheduled to be destroyed for unnamed security reasons.

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Officers were stunned after hearing the news, citing the stringent testing procedures and the difficulty of the exam. Many are understandably frustrated to know that all their hard work is sitting in pieces at the bottom of a trashcan. Anyone seeking promotion will be required to retake the exam.

Their frustration has been building since well before the shredding incident. Earlier this year, the same promotional test was administered and resulted in an abysmal 55 percent failure rate. Several assistant chief probation officers, active in the same position they were being tested for, also failed the test.

The test was developed and administered by the Illinois based company Industrial/Organizational Solutions Inc. of Illinois (IOS). After the failures, the company audited the test, looking for any mistakes on their end that might have contributed to the failing grades. After the audit, IOS not only found the test to be valid, but also noticed that an applicant that had actually failed the test had been notified that they had succeeded because of an arithmetic error. Probation officers were not surprised to hear that IOS found no problems with its own test, and were dissatisfied with the results.

Alongside this, the test was implemented to counteract a corrupt patronage system put in place by former probation commissioner John J. O’Brien. However, many of the administrators for the test were probation managers who had helped O’Brien to implement his corrupt system.

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Between IOS flubs and the potential bias from probation managers, many are calling the validity of the test into question. The shredded test booklets have done little to inspire confidence in test takers, and it may be some time before the Boston Probation Department is able to earn back their trust.