Test score revisions pass 13 local students

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 8/9/00.

Recently discovered scoring errors on Minnesota's Basic Standards math test affected the scores of 65 Paynesville students. Since the errors were discovered and corrected, 13 local students now have passing scores.

More than 47,000 Minnesota students were affected by the error on the math test. It meant nearly 8,000 students who had been told they failed, passed the test. As many as 336 high school seniors who were told they had failed the test, now will be receiving diplomas.

No one from Paynesville's senior class was affected by the error. All PAHS seniors already had passed the required basic skills math test.

Last week, Paynesville Area High School principal John Janotta called students who now have passing scores.

The error involved six questions in the second part of the test which were changed but someone failed to revise the answer key.

Janotta said, "The correct answers tipped many students over the edge point-wise, some substantially."

For others, the correction may have raised their scores but not enough to pass the test. They will have to try again, Janotta added. No test scores from Paynesville went down as a result of the revisions.

The National Computer Systems (NCS), the company that handles the tests, will be sending out letters to students affected by the change in test scores by Aug. 21.

A hot line was set up by the Depart-ment of Children, Families, and Learning to help parents and students obtain their correct test scores. Parents and students wishing more information about their test scores can call 1-800-657-3927.

The Senate Education Committee held hearings last week to find out what caused the scoring errors on the math tests. Christine Jax, commissioner of the Children, Families, and Learning said her department is considering changes so a mistake like this won't happen again.

NCS has accepted full blame for the error. Other states do double check test scores but Minnesota does not.

According to Senator Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville), the bottom line is that someone changed the test and forgot to change the answer key. The mistake would have gone undetected but for a persistent parent who spent over a month contacting the state department and finally arranged a personal review of his daughter's test.

NCS has stated they will compensate seniors whose graduation was affected by the error by giving them a $1,000 scholarship reimbursement for college and paying for a special graduation ceremony.

Since the states contract with NCS is nearly up, Fischbach said a new contract should require more quality control. She felt more overseeing by the state department and stricter language is needed.

The basic skills tests have been given in Minnesota since 1996. However, the Class of 2000 was the first class required to pass the reading, writing, and math tests in order to graduate.

The reading and math tests were given again on July 18 and 19 for those who had not passed the tests earlier this year. Their scores are not available yet. Janotta expects the results back before school starts in September.

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