Listening to “Morning Edition” on NPR the other day, I heard about problems New Haven, Connecticut, was having with their fire department’s civil service testing process. Sounded just like Dayton. I highly recommend clicking over and reading the whole story- but here is the part that was interesting to me:
The brief also argues that even New Haven’s oral examinations did not use many of the modern techniques relied on in the majority of fire departments today, where real equipment or tabletop models, for instance, are used to simulate real-life situations.
Critics of the New Haven test say relying too much on multiple-choice tests and structured oral exams can produce officers who are “book smart” but “street dumb.”
Torre, the lawyer for the white firefighters, responds that the test used by the city was carefully designed by an independent firm, that the oral exams were conducted by panels of predominantly minority examiners from outside the district, and that the takers who studied hardest got the highest marks.
It seems that Dayton should be closely watching this case- and looking at alternative testing processes to assess promotions- including peer review.
When working as a team, where life and death situations are the norm, most people know who the “go-to” guy/gal is. We should be able to work something out in Dayton that makes sure that we have the best people being promoted based on qualification, not on seniority or on the ability to score well on multiple choice tests.