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Brotspies v. Department of Civil Service

Decided: April 4, 1961.


Goldmann, Foley and Kilkenny. Goldmann, S.j.a.d.


[66 NJSuper Page 493] Plaintiffs, ten in number, have appealed from a decision of the Department of Civil Service declaring that the examination for Supervisor of Case Work, Essex County (PC 106) was held in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Service rules and regulations and found to be in good order, and declaring that those

candidates, among them plaintiffs, who failed to achieve a passing grade in the written test would not be permitted to participate in the oral test for the position.

Thereafter plaintiffs moved for leave to enjoin the Department from certifying to the employing authority a list of persons eligible for appointment to the position, and to obtain an order making the examination and the answer sheets part of the record to be filed with the Appellate Division pursuant to R.R. 4:88-8. The Department opposed both demands.

Plaintiffs then made a second motion for leave to present additional evidence to show how the questions used in the examination were prepared and the correct answers established, and to show that the answers considered correct by respondent Department were, in effect, not the correct answers. (The examination was one which offered a multiple choice answer for each question.) This motion, too, was opposed.

Eventually this court entered an order directing that plaintiffs be given the opportunity to examine the questions on the examination they took, at which time they were to state the numbers of those questions they considered improperly marked by respondent and to indicate which answer they believed to be correct with regard to each of them. The application contained in their second motion was denied.

The parties consented that a single judge sitting on behalf of the Appellate Division, conduct a hearing at which plaintiffs would specify the questions they found objectionable, and the reasons why the answers considered correct by the Department were in fact incorrect, and their answers correct. Such a hearing was held before me, at which plaintiffs Brotspies, Addonizio, Eubanks and Zach were present, as well as the Department's Director of Examinations, Boyd, and Technical Assistant of Examinations Mankovich. At that time plaintiffs stated that they objected to 10 of the 110 questions marked and the correctness of the Department's

answers. I was provided with a copy of the ten questions, together with the answers the Department considered correct and those which plaintiffs, on their part and by common agreement, considered correct. As to the last mentioned, it may be noted that in some instances the answers of some of the plaintiffs did not agree with the one which they now jointly agree is the right one as they view the matter.

The hearing stems from the Department's objection to making the examination questions and answers a matter of public record, open to inspection and copying by any member of the public. Publication of the questions and correct answers from any examination would, in its opinion, destroy valuable interests of the Department and impede its effective administration of the merit system.

The reason is found in the fact that individual questions are used on various examinations conducted by respondent. The Department keeps a history of each item and analyzes its value in the light of two factors. The first is the percentage of testees who answer the item correctly. If everyone answers correctly or, on the other hand, answers incorrectly, the item is considered as making no contribution. The second factor is the ratio of those who passed and who answered correctly, to the total number of those who answered correctly. The ideal value for this ratio is 1.00. Should the ratio be 0.00, the item is considered to be not only a failure, but a negative factor in discriminating between the qualified and the unqualified. From the point of view of the Department, the grading of answers to such an item would tend to give higher scores to persons determined to be unqualified as a result of the entire examination.

The history of items so recorded gives the Department a valuable source for questions of whose validity it may be confident. Frequently an item will prove to be worthwhile for several positions but of no value in determining qualifications for other positions.

Since the Department may desire to use many of the items if a test is held for a position ...

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