Civil service testing reviewed by Supreme Court

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.

via Supreme Court Hears Firefighter Promotion Case : NPR.

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.

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Daytons problem is not with promotional exams, but with the entrance exams. Within the past year or so, the city put together a group to find ways to get more minorities on the safety forces. The group was comprised of the police chief, fire cheif, and other city managment.  They recomended more oral testing and less written testing, based on the premise that whites are better educated and therfore have an unfair “advantage” on written tests. The real reason for giving oral tests is that they are more subjective and allow oral proctors to choose candidates they want instead of solely using test scores. All of this is beacuse city leaders think the percentage of minorities in the safety forces should match the percentage of minorities in the city. So instead of hiring the best candidates, Dayton is actively hiring less qualified candidates just so they can say they have a diverse workforce. Racism in its purest form.


At one point the exam was given open book.  If you can’t pass that, it might be difficult to become certified as an EMT?