Seven black city firefighters passed over for promotion because they did not score high enough on a written exam will rise to captains' ranks and get cash payments if the Houston City Council approves a lawsuit settlement Wednesday. ...
The seven passed exams for captain or senior captain in 2006, but many white firefighters scored higher. Because promotions were awarded to candidates with the highest scores, the seven did not make the cut.
They sued in 2008, arguing the city discriminated against them by using a racially biased test. The lawsuit states that the promotional exams "have an adverse impact upon African-Americans."
Whites who passed the exam were promoted at more than twice the rate of blacks who passed, according to the suit. It also claims that studies and research in organizational psychology demonstrate that written job knowledge exams have little value in predicting who will perform better in the positions at stake.
"There clearly were concerns with respect to the exam and the impact of the exam," he said. "As we looked at it, and as the court looked at it, we recognized that changes needed to be made to the exam so that it could properly validated for (equal opportunity) purposes."
Feldman said the Fire Department will begin using a new exam this year that has been validated by a testing firm to assure that it does not produce results related to the race or ethnicity of the test takers.
What a great idea! Why didn't anybody ever think of that before? How hard could it possibly be for a testing firm to produce results not related to race or ethnicity?
What a weirdly lucrative era this is for psychometricians ...
The plan headed to council does not settle how to test going forward. Wednesday's settlement would only dispose of the claims of the seven firefighters. Changes to the promotional system should be negotiated with the representatives of the entire firefighting corps, not just seven of them, said Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. "Our issue is that the seven plaintiffs have dictated to the city changes to the promotional system irrespective of our collective bargaining agreement," Caynon said.
I was going to say -- "The beefy white guy in the windbreaker is, as usual, the only one to complain. Fortunately, the Republican Party is out to exterminate all public employee union power, so soon there won't be anybody to complain" -- but it turns out that Jeff Caynon is a beefy black guy.
The test is the primary factor in determining who gets promoted within the department. At the time the suit was filed, an education anthropologist at the University of Texas said explanations for black-white test score gaps include blacks more often receiving an inferior education than whites and minorities' vulnerability to performance anxiety that stem from stereotypes.