New York State High-Stakes Exams: More Errors Found In Questions On Standardized Tests

More Mistakes Found In New York's Error-Laden Exams

The errors on New York's state exams just keep mounting.

Foreign language versions of the state math exams administered to third through eighth graders had translation errors that invalidated 20 questions, the New York Daily News reports. When combined with previous discoveries of test errors -- including those related to the confusing and controversial talking pineapple and hare passage -- the number of invalidated state test questions this year totals 29.

In most cases on the foreign language math exams, translation errors created questions without a single correct answer, NY1 reports. And in at least two other questions, more than one correct answer was available. Errors existed in every translated version of the exam: Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Braille. The different language versions are offered to accommodate young English-learners.

Chancellor Merryl Tisch told the Daily News in a separate report that the mistakes are "really disturbing" and "inexcusable," but the test results would still be used for teacher evaluations and school report cards because the errors had not "contaminated" results.

Increasingly more eyes are on the state's high-stakes exams as a measurement of success for teachers and schools, and particularly as the New York City Department of Education was legally required to release a list of individual ratings of thousands of the city's school teachers earlier this year.

Three questions on the English version of the math test have been tossed as well. Advocates for Children executive director Kim Sweet, however, tells the Daily News that just throwing out erroneous problems isn't a solution.

"When children are taking a test and come upon a badly worded question, it can … affect their performance on the rest of the test."

The state has not seen exam question errors in this volume in previous years, and the increasing number of reports call into question its 5-year, $32 million contract with testing company Pearson, which was hired just this year.

"Clearly, Pearson can’t deliver what they were contracted to provide to the state, and our children are suffering for it," Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan representative to the city’s Panel for Educational Policy told the Daily News. "State Education Department officials are trying to increase the amount of testing, which is wrong to begin with, and they're not paying attention to the quality of it."

In a statement, state Education Department spokesperson Tom Dunn says officials are working to solve the problem. There is, however, no indication that the state intends to terminate its contract with the testing company.

"Together with Pearson, we are reviewing proofreading protocols to improve these outcomes in the 2012-13 test cycle," Dunn said. "In every instance where errors were identified, they were fully addressed to minimize impact of children."

Following controversy over the talking pineapple passage on the state's eighth-grade reading exam last month, state education officials notified school principals that a question on the fourth-grade math exam had two correct answers, but students would not be told the mistake unless they asked. Credit was given to students who selected either of the correct answers.

As a result, districts were forced to re-score exams and costing extra in public funds to pay teachers overtime to do so.

"It adds more complications and stress and time to what our staff’s trying to do," Fulton Superintendent William Lynch told WSYR-TV. "The outcome is with the students and teachers in the classroom. Those are the folks who experience the greatest frustration with this."

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