Teacher Test Scoring Flunks

Teacher & Employment Testing

More than 1500 candidates for mathematics teaching certificates from 17 states had their licensing tests rescored when the Educational Testing Service (ETS) admitted that 23 of the 50 questions on the January and June 2001 administrations of the PRAXIS Mathematics Content Knowledge exams had previously been published in an ETS study guide. ETS did not discover the mistake until after the June test; it then found that the same items had also been used in January.


Rather than force all the applicants to take the exam again, ETS calculated new scores based only on the 27 questions not previously administered. In an August news release, the company insisted that “this smaller number of items provided sufficient information to render reliable and meaningful decisions.” But an ETS statement that rescoring resulted in 21 more people passing in January undermines this claim.


It is not known whether any January or June test-takers, who originally had been told they had passed, failed after the rescoring. ETS did offer a free retest to anyone who did not pass in January or June. Nationally, more than 60 percent of test takers were told they had flunked the June test.


The incident again calls into question the competence of the testing industry and is another reminder of the problems with relying on one, fallible exam to make major educational or employment decisions. In addition, ETS’ claim that a 27-item exam is equivalent to one with 50 questions is confusing: if that assertion is true, why does the firm continue to force test-takers to sit through a longer, presumably more expensive test?