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Thousands of Tests Scored Incorrectly in Tennessee

By Catherine Gewertz — October 16, 2017 2 min read
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Nearly 10,000 tests were scored incorrectly in Tennessee, marking the second time in the last few years that the state has had major problems with its standardized assessment.

According to the Commercial Appeal, 9,400 of the 600,000 TNReady tests given in 2016-17 were scored incorrectly. About 1,700 of those mistakes affected whether students were deemed proficient on the test, the newspaper reports.

State department of education spokeswoman Sara Gast said the errors don’t affect statewide results. They occurred because Questar, the company that administers and scores the test, didn’t update its scanning software, the Commercial Appeal reports. Questar has now rescored all the incorrectly scored exams, Gast said.

The mistakes affected 70 schools in 33 districts, Chalkbeat Tennessee reports.

“I don’t think they can write it off and say it was just a few students,” Shelby County Schools board member Chris Caldwell told Chalkbeat. “They owe it to every student to get to the bottom of it and correct anything that needs to be corrected.”

The mistake also affects teachers, since student test scores factor into their evaluations, Chalkbeat reports. The Tennessee Education Association issued a statement saying it would be looking into testing mistakes it’s heard about from teachers, from mistakes in the instruction booklets to “huge shifts” in the state’s projections for teacher evaluations.

“This makes the fourth year in a row where major problems have surfaced in a system where there are a lot of high-stakes consequences for students, teachers, and schools based on test scores,” TEA spokesman Jim Wrye said. “How do we know this is the full extent of the problem?”

In its own statement, Questar apologized for the error.

The company “takes responsibility for and apologizes for this scoring error,” Chief Operating Officer Brad Baumgartner said. “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.”

Tennessee had trouble with TNReady with a previous vendor, also. It fired Measurement Inc. after that company botched spring 2016 testing. The state hired Questar on a two-year contract last summer.

For more stories on problems with online testing, see:

Eagerness, Anxiety Await Rollout of New Tennessee Test

Online-Testing Stumbles Spark Legislation in Affected States

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.