More than 4,000 Va. students assigned wrong testing results

Pearson, the world’s largest education and testing company, provided incorrect scorecards for more than 4,000 students in Virginia who took an alternative assessment last school year.

That mistake led to many parents receiving news this summer that their children had passed the test when they had failed it.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has created for students, parents, schools and school divisions as well as to our colleagues at the Virginia Department of Education,” Susan Aspey, a spokesman for Pearson, said in a written statement. “We understand the importance of accurate reporting and know that the school divisions are now working very hard to make internal adjustments to their scores before reporting them to parents and the state.”

Pearson issued a similar apology last spring for making mistakes in the scoring of admissions tests for gifted and talented programs in New York City public schools. Other scoring problems by Pearson in recent years caused delays in final test results in Florida and Minnesota.

Pearson and state education officials said the problem in Virginia was not in the scoring but in how the scores were converted into proficiency levels: fail, pass/proficient or pass/advanced.

The testing company provided miscalculated scorecards to school divisions this summer. Some school districts, including Alexandria’s, Arlington County’s and Prince William County’s, had already given parents the results before the error was flagged in late July.

Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, called the mistake “truly regrettable.” Virginia has a three-year, $110 million contract, which began July 2011, with Pearson to administer and score the state tests. Virginia education officials plan to meet with Pearson representatives later in the week to discuss the technical problems and whether the state might receive any financial compensation.

The botched scorecards were for the Virginia Alternative Assessment Program, given to students with serious cognitive disabilities who are unable to take regular Standards of Learning tests.

The portfolio-style tests review student work that is compiled throughout the school year. Usually, the portfolios are evaluated on the local level, Pyle said. But this year, because the state is moving to new standards, Pearson was given the job of judging and scoring them.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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