State fixes schools’
test error

Third-grade students' scores are
adjusted in the standardized test

The state Department of Education adjusted the scores of third-grade students who took statewide achievement tests earlier this year because of errors in two questions.

The questions were from different sections and were each worth up to three points out of 70, said Selvin Chin-Chance, head of the department's Test Development Section.

"Students who scored zero got one point, those who scored one point got two and students who scored two points got three," he said.

Chin-Chance said the department decided to adjust the scores because it felt the students' scores could have been hurt by the error and that throwing the questions out would have made the test shorter and its results less reliable.

Public school students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 took the Hawaii State Assessment in March and April. The results from the series of tests in math, reading and writing are critical because they will determine which schools meet federal standards and which face sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The department finalized the results and distributed them to the schools Friday and yesterday.

Chin-Chance said the department instructed principals to contact the students' parents as soon as possible to let them know about their children's scores. The department will not know which schools are above or below the No Child Left Behind standard until September when a complicated set of calculations is completed, he said.

As the tests were being given, teachers discovered errors in sample questions and directions in their teacher manuals. Later checks by Harcourt Assessment Inc., the San Antonio-based company that developed the tests, revealed errors in trial questions that were not calculated in student scores and in the two questions that were.

Testing companies include trial questions to determine whether to add them as actual questions in future tests. Test-takers do not know which ones are trial questions and which ones are actual test questions.

The total number of test errors is at least 40, but Harcourt and the department are negotiating the exact number.

"There were some discussions between us and the department as to what was considered an error vs. what we considered to be a difference of opinion on some things," said Mark Slitt, Harcourt spokesman.

The two parties are also negotiating what penalty Harcourt will pay for the errors. The company developed the tests as part of a five-year, $20 million state contract.

None of the errors -- even the ones in the two third-grade questions -- affected the overall results, said John Olsen, Harcourt's vice president of psychometrics research.

"Every single analysis found that these types of mistakes that had been made did not have an impact on student performance," Olsen said.

On one of the third-grade questions that was found to contain an error, most students were able to figure out what the question was asking, Olsen said.

That question asked the students to draw a graph on a chart that was supposed to have grid lines. Chin-Chance said the grid lines were not visible.

The other question asked the students to draw an item they would find at a beach and write something about it. Chin-Chance said the test did not include enough space for a drawing. He said many students did score three points on each question before the adjustment.

State Department of Education
Harcourt Assessment Inc.



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