Just when it seemed that this year’s state testing had gone off with minimal hitches, news has emerged that thousands of exams were incorrectly scored.
About 9,400 students in 33 districts across Tennessee received incorrect scores after the testing vendor, Questar, used a scanning program that included an error. That includes Shelby County Schools in Memphis, where the problem affected just over a thousand students at 11 high schools, school board members confirmed on Friday.
An official with the state’s Achievement School District said he wasn’t aware of the issue, but the ASD is one of 33 districts affected, according to the state.
The errors were isolated to English I and II and Integrated Math II tests for high school students, according to an email to school board members.
Shante Avant, chairwoman for Shelby County’s board, said the errors are concerning, especially after the tumultuous rollout of TNReady in 2016.
“Our kids do have to be assessed so we know how best to support them. And there’s a heightened scrutiny with test scores. But when we’re not able to provide accurate information, it breeds mistrust,” she said.
Here are the Shelby County Schools affected:
The state said tests for students in grades three through eight were re-checked and no errors were detected. “All student score results for grade 3-8 are correct and final,” according to a state email to superintendents.
It’s unclear how much the scoring errors might have distorted district averages, which the state reported in late August. About 1,700 of the changed scores statewide affected whether or not a student passed the test.
“I don’t know if 1,000 out of 10,000 students is going to significantly impact the district,” said Shelby County board member Chris Caldwell. “But we certainly want to make sure they come out as accurate. It’s especially important for the students.”
Several districts, including Shelby County Schools, chose not to include raw TN Ready scores in student report cards, meaning student grades wouldn’t have been affected by incorrect scores. But confusion remains for board members on how exactly this will impact students as well as teachers, who are evaluated based on their students’ exam scores, Caldwell said.
What is clear is that the scores could have implications for historically low-performing schools. This year’s scores were the second year of the state’s new test for high school students — and the state will use them to decide what happens to struggling schools under its new accountability plan to comply with federal law.
While TNReady results for individual schools haven’t been released yet, district-level scores for high schoolers showed that few were on grade-level in Memphis school districts.
Questar was new to Tennessee test-making this year and was responsible for distributing and scoring the exams. Questar took over following a string of TNReady challenges in the test’s inaugural year. After the online platform failed and numerous delivery delays of printed testing materials, McQueen canceled testing in grades 3-8 and fired its previous test maker, Measurement Inc.
“Questar takes responsibility for and apologizes for this scoring error,” Chief Operating Officer Brad Baumgartner said in an email to the state. “We are putting in additional steps in our processes to prevent any future occurrence. We are in the process of producing revised reports and committed to doing so as quickly as possible.”
Here is the full list of district’s affected:
- Achievement School District
- Anderson County
- Benton County
- Bradley County
- Bristol City
- Carter County
- Cocke County
- Collierville City
- Crockett County
- Davidson County
- Elizabethton City
- Giles County
- Hamilton County
- Hardin County
- Henry County
- Huntingdon Special School District
- Jackson-Madison County
- Knox County
- Lewis County
- Lincoln County
- Marshall County
- Maryville City
- Monroe County
- Montgomery County
- Obion County
- Putnam County
- Roane County
- Rutherford County
- Shelby County
- Smith County
- Sumner County
- Union City
- Weakley County
This story has been updated with comments from Shelby County Schools board chair Shante Avant and Questar. We have updated the story with a full list of districts affected.