From: Charles Greenlaw <cgreenlaw(--nospam--at)speedlink.com>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 14:58:16 -0800
Martin W. Johnson relates good experiences with his involvement in the Calif
SE Exam a number of years back. One cannot argue with another person's
perceptions, and the exam problem writing and grading procedures he cites do
seem entirely reasonable.
But a couple of comments at the end provoke reply.
>The examinees need to know their stuff well before walking in,
keep a cool head, and work quickly and efficiently. Exactly the traits that
you would want in any engineer you hire.
Well, yes. But working quickly and efficiently, while desirable in a
person being hired, is not the kind of skill that a licensing examination
has justification to test for. If the non-quick are weeded out and kept from
gaining the SE certificate, even though skilled and diligent and safe to
practice, then the exam has become one to benefit employers (and
speed-gifted examinees, past and present) as a priority over safeguarding
the public from the non-safe.
Where speed and efficiency counts heavily, then the exam favors
applicants who routinely work alongside those who write the exam, and
thereby share the same patterns of problem and solution modeling. An
applicant from a different professional environment is apt to be far less
quick and efficient with respect to the exam problems confronted, and
thereby disadvantaged, without any other difference in competency. Indeed, a
person coming from outside a Calif SE office apprenticeship may know and use
more exacting methods, that take more time but are less well recognized as
sound methods by graders, and may get more exact answers that are not the
pre-ordained ones that multiple-choice scoresheets give credit to.
>I have a lot of respect for any engineer
>who passes the test, and I'd hate to see it get watered down by
>politicians who are suspicious that we are only being "self serving" or
>are only trying to reduce the cost of the exam.
The politicians are aware that every last one of those "Western
States" that were in cahoots with California have bailed out and gone to the
NCEES SE exams. That fact speaks for itself. And the politicians are not in
the dark about Calif-written exam complaints. Aggrieved persons know to tell
legislators. The California-written Land Surveying Exam is under the same
fire that the SE Exam is. A recent LS exam passed less than 2 percent.
Here's another instance:
There was a horrible battle over the grading of the 1989 Calif Land Surveyor
Exam, which was written and graded by McGraw-Hill under contract, using
Calif Land Surveyors for personnel. An examinee's appeal was rejected by the
contractor, but the LS Boardmember was informed outside of regular
procedures and took an interest. He ultimately found that Board Staff had by
intent falsely represented the appealing examinee's valid explanation of why
he was correct, which resulted in the contractor's ten reviewing experts
being misled and rejecting the appeal. Staff initially crowed to the LS
Boardmember that he "lost, ten-zip." He later discovered the duplicity and
obtained a vote by the full Board to grant the appealed-for credit to that
appellant and to everyone else whose answer to that problem was now deemed
correct, whether they appealed or not.
The staff ladies were mightily embarassed, which resulted in the LS
Boardmember being accused, by two of them and three Boardmembers, of
improperly tampering with exam grading, and conflict of interest by favoring
a particular candidate whose father supposedly had been a partner of the LS
Boardmember. This accusation was lodged with the Director of Consumer
Affairs, and initially received his sympathies. The LS Boardmember was
uncowed, went public, and demanded and received a full-scale investigation
by a state professional investigation agency. This took a year, but cleared
him completely in early 1991, shortly after a new governor's regime had
Interestingly, each of those two senior female staffers were believed to be
having after-hours relationships with a complaining male Boardmember, and
the third complaining Boardmember, who chaired the Enforcement Committee,
was openly dating the staffer who ran the enforcement unit. In complaining
about a belated correction of bad exam grading, these men were standing by
their gals rather than for honest conduct.
By mid-1992 the director of the department under which the licensing boards
operate had been informed of the affairs and other unseemly conduct, and had
investigated and compelled the three staffers to leave. He installed his own
man as executive officer for a year.
Little of this reflects adversely on LS Exam graders, past their first
mistaken answer, but indicates that good methods can always be negated by
those in charge of implementing them.
Charles O. Greenlaw SE Sacramento CA