Assessment

State Journal

May 09, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Play on Words

Washington state 10th graders taking the state’s math assessment this spring are being told to skip Question 8, because of what education officials called a “malicious” prank pulled by a test-item writer.

The question presents a mileage chart and a sign for an east-west road and asks students to deduce the correct sequence of four fictional towns: Turno, Lee, Clay, and Mayri.

The trouble is, the correct answer on the multiple-choice test mimics the name of Mary Kay Letourneau, the Seattle-area teacher who gained national notoriety in 1997 when she pleaded guilty to child rape for having sex with a student—starting when he was 12. Ms. Letourneau, now serving a 7½-year prison sentence, has borne two children fathered by the student.

State officials said the play on words went undetected when the question was pilot-tested with students in 1998; a handful of students noticed it at the start of this year’s assessment period, which runs April 23 to May 11.

State schools Superintendent Terry Bergeson announced April 26 that the question, one of 70 items on the test, would not be scored. In an interview, Ms. Bergeson said she asked reporters to avoid creating a distraction while many of the state’s 75,000 10th graders were still taking the assessment. “You can lose the whole math test if you make a fiasco out of it,” she said.

State officials plan to start screening questions for “malicious intent.” So does Riverside Publishing Co., which writes the state’s test items. Company President John Laramy said the question was written in 1997 by a contract employee who has not worked for the Itasca, Ill.-based subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin since 1998.

—Andrew Trotter

A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2001 edition of Education Week

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Opinion Rebooting Assessment and Accountability Post-Pandemic: What Now?
The disruptions of the pandemic have made this an ideal time to rethink accountability and assessment.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Assessment Don’t Use State Tests ‘Punitively,’ Ed. Secretary Cardona Warns
As federal accountability restarts after two years, guidance from the department underscores how complicated that could be.
5 min read
Image of data, target goals, and gaining ground.
iStock/Getty
Assessment Latest Round of Federal Grants Aims to Make States' Assessments More Equitable, Precise
The U.S. Department of Education awarded over $29 million in competitive grants to 10 state education agencies.
2 min read
Assessment review data 599911460
vladwei/iStock/Getty<br/>
Assessment Opinion Are There Better Ways Than Standardized Tests to Assess Students? Educators Think So
Student portfolios and school community surveys are but two of the many alternatives to standardized tests.
3 min read
Illustration of students in virus environment facing wave of test sheets.
Collage by Vanessa Solis/Education Week (Images: iStock/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty)