More Texas testing woes after one district raises scoring concerns


A North Texas school district has uncovered errors in the scoring of some state-mandated exams, and school leaders are now paying nearly $50,000 to double-check thousands of test results.

Lewisville district leaders are questioning the accuracy and validity of the scoring of high school English end-of-course exams, which students are required to pass to graduate. Some students, including high performers and those taking Advanced Placement courses, received zeros on the short answer portion of the exam.

“The fact that students who are enrolled in advanced courses were among those receiving zeros on the tests brought to light the obvious scoring issues,” said Amanda Brim, district spokeswoman.

The district earlier this year paid more than $3,000 to have the state’s testing vendor, Educational Testing Services, review 162 exams the district felt were scored incorrectly. One in 5 of the tests received a higher score upon review — enough for the district to call on the Texas Education Agency to investigate.

The Lewisville scoring gaffes have come to light just two weeks after state officials threatened to reconsider a $280 million contract with Educational Testing Services because a computer glitch wiped out the answers to 14,220 state standardized tests.

While most school districts administer the first round of high school English exams in the spring, Lewisville did so in December. If further scoring discrepancies are found among the Lewisville students’ exams, the district might have stumbled upon more sweeping problems.

“We have broader reservations about what this means for the integrity of the testing system in general, especially in light of the way campuses and districts are rated based solely on the results of the scores on these tests,” Brim said.

A Texas Education Agency spokeswoman said the agency is working with the district on the issue and confirmed that 20 percent of the Lewisville scores that were double-checked have been changed.

“We’ve been working with ETS to determine what caused this,” agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said. The agency waives the rescoring fee if an exam score improves after the review.

In addition to the computer glitch and the scoring mistakes in Lewisville, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath recently told State Board of Education members that the week prior to this year’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams, some booklets were sent to incorrect addresses, missing state deadlines. It is the first year Educational Testing Services, which is based out of New Jersey, is administering the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests after the state dumped Pearson Education.

Leaders from the 53,000-student Lewisville district first took their concerns to the Texas Education Agency in January and were told in a Feb. 9 response that “the differences in scores may be attributed to the differences in the characteristics of the students participating,” among other factors.

Last week, Lewisville Superintendent Kevin Rogers wrote to Morath asking that the written responses on the exams be made available for review by the district’s testing department. He told Morath that 17 percent of primary English I testers, who scored much higher on the composition portion of the exam, received zeroes on the short answer, and that he had contacted agency officials with his concerns.

“Their response did nothing to alleviate our level of uneasiness with the reported scores,” Rogers wrote to Morath. “In short, we were told the questions were difficult, and the scores were accurate.”


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