More Testing Errors

K-12 Testing

In Texas, 4,640 students who thought they had failed the 10th grade math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test learned they had passed after the Texas Education Agency discovered that a test item had more than one correct answer. Students must pass TAKS to get a diploma.


The TEA claimed that the question, asking students to find the perimeter of an octagon, assumed they would apply the Pythagorean Theorem to solve the problem. At an item review session, however it was discovered that due to poor wording of the problem a student could use trigonometry and arrive at a different answer, that was also a choice on the answer sheet.


Anne Papakonstantinou, director of the Rice University School of Mathematics project, said, "This is a high-stakes test, and it counts for so much for the kids. It impacts lives significantly so it's very, very sad. Give the TAKS designers an F."


Michigan state officials and contractor Measurement Inc. are trying to determine what happened to 1,000 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. Results due in May were delayed until September for 3,400 students, but 1,000 tests are still missing. MEAP exams were lost for students in Lansing, Detroit, Pickney, Saline, and several other cities.


Seventh- and eighth-graders who pass the state exams in reading, writing, math and science qualify for $500 scholarships provided they also pass the high school exams. The fate of some awards are now in question. If a decision is made to give scholarships to the students with missing exams, the state may bill the contractor for the awards, education officials said.


In Nevada, Harcourt Educational Measurement, already fined $425,000 by the state for past mistakes, has made another error. The wrong table was used while scoring third- and fifth-grade tests, resulting in as many as 21,000 students receiving incorrect scores. The error delayed the release of information on the status of failing schools. This delay also made transferring from lower achieving schools to higher scoring ones impossible for students who would otherwise have qualified for the state's school choice program. "It was a very serious mistake," said Gary Waters, president of the state Board of Education. "It will be very difficult for that company to regain the confidence of the board."


Arizona superintendents have again had problems receiving Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) results. Due to a technical glitch, AIMS writing scores for third and fifth graders sent to districts in late July were incorrect. More students were reported to have passed or excelled on the exam than actually did. State officials caught the error in time to keep incorrect scores from being mailed to parents. The state changed testing companies after technical problems forced parents to wait an extra year for correct scores on the 2001 AIMS tests.