Testing Errors Proliferate

K-12 Testing
Errors continue to plague testing programs, producing delays in test results, inaccurate scores and flawed, unfair decisions about students and schools. Recent examples include:
  • Unexpectedly low sixth- and seventh-grade math scores on Virginia's state test mean many schools are in danger of losing accreditation. State officials are searching for a cause. Since fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders were tested for the first time last spring, administrators had projected students' math scores based on previous eighth-grade math results.
  • On the heels of various test glitches in the spring, including late test delivery and error-filled exam booklets, Illinois education officials announced that schools would start the year without knowing whether they had made AYP the previous year. In response to the errors, the state fined Harcourt Assessment Inc., the test maker responsible for the delays. In October, state officials signed a nearly $33 million contract with Iowa-based Pearson Educational Measurement to print, distribute and retrieve the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and prepare assessment results for the spring 2007 test administration. Harcourt agreed to pay the state damages, but will still come out ahead once it is paid to continue developing questions for the tests. College entrance exam company ACT will handle administration of the Prairie State Achievement Exam, the test given to Illinois high school juniors.
  • Arkansas school districts had to discard thousands of pages of math test data after an error affected scores of 238,000 students in grades three through nine. Test scorers had calculated schools' math scores without including the computation section of the tests. Riverside Publishing Co., which markets the Iowa tests that were affected by the error, said it would issue corrected reports.
  • North Carolina was forced to delay release of math test results for 3rd through 8th graders because they couldn't find a company to analyze the results. State education officials said they wanted to avoid a repeat of 2001, when low passing scores on the state math tests resulted in an unprecedented passing rate.
  • Delays in returning state test scores meant that hundreds of New York City children were retained in grade this year based on partial and outdated information. The city held back 322 students in third grade and 757 in fifth grade who had actually scored high enough to earn promotion.