As the College Board is finding out, New York State legislators assume that if you promise you will give them a report, you'll give them the report.
The report that led to faxes, press conferences and much legal conferencing on Thursday is an outside study commissioned by the College Board to look into last year's embarrassing scoring errors on the SAT.
After much wrangling and a subpoena, the board sent a letter to Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle Thursday saying that it would try to release the report by July 24 -- assuming that the board can deal with parts of the report that it believes are covered by confidentiality clauses with its vendors. An aide to the senator said Thursday night that he is still expecting the report to be delivered today -- the deadline of the subpoena. LaValle also issued a statement Thursday night saying that he might go to court if the report isn't delivered on time.
LaValle had given the board a deadline of today to produce the report and other documents about the SAT scoring mess, and to have Gaston Caperton, president of the board, appear at a hearing. With the board saying that was impossible, LaValle on Thursday said he would settle for the report.
The much-sought report was prepared by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. LaValle heads the Higher Education Committee of the New York Senate and has long pushed for more oversight of the standardized testing industry -- usually with the industry opposing him. The report has become particularly contentious because Caperton cited it months ago as evidence that the board was taking its problems seriously. In a letter to LaValle, in statements before his committee, and in other public comments, Caperton said he would release the report.
When the deadline given by the College Board itself for releasing the report came and went last month, board officials said that they were holding back the report because they have been sued over the scoring errors.
But in an interview Thursday, LaValle said it was inexcusable for the board to promise a report to a legislative committee and then fail to produce it.
"I want to know what they are hiding and so does everyone else. Why won't they release it?" LaValle said.
The senator said he was concerned that if the board held on to the report too long, board officials could "make it so that they look good," and that he wants to see the report in its current condition. He added that the board has long been inconsistent on all kinds of issues -- claiming that the SAT isn't used as a cutoff score even though many programs and scholarships use it that way. He also said that in all of his previous skirmishes with the board, dating to 1979, the board has refused to release information that lawmakers need to see to understand what sort of oversight is needed.
"They control the destiny over young people on what pathway they will go in their life, what scholarships they will receive or not receive and what institutions they will be admitted to, and yet they are accountable to no one," LaValle said.
In its letter to LaValle, released late Thursday, the College Board said it was holding on to the report past the senator's deadline because it needs to negotiate with its vendors and contractors over portions of the report that apply to them and that are supposed to be confidential.
A spokeswoman for the College Board said that the suit filed against the organization changed its view of the report. She acknowledged that Caperton told two elected officials that he would release the report, but she said that he meant only the recommendations from the report and that he wasn't thinking of the litigation at the time.
Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing -- a long-time critic of the College Board -- has been among those pushing for the release of the report. He said he agrees with LaValle that there must be something damning in it for the board to get into such a protracted fight with a powerful lawmaker. "What can be so bad that the College Board submits itself to death by a thousand cuts?" he asked.