Prince George’s County lost 500 student assessment tests

Approximately 500 Prince George’s County first-graders had to retake an assessment test used to identify students for the county’s gifted and talented program after the original exams went missing on their way to be scanned.

Seven schools re-administered the Otis Lennon School Ability Test in December after schools officials realized they could not locate the exams, said Max Pugh, a school system spokesman. Students took the test in October as part of an evaluation to see if they should be placed in the county’s gifted and talented programs.

Pugh said some boxes containing tests were not scanned in, prompting the district’s testing coordinator to schedule new tests for the students last month. Pugh said the missing boxes were found in a warehouse about two days after the tests were retaken. The district plans to score both tests and to use the better of the two scores, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that human error caused this inconvenience to students,” Pugh said. “We are addressing the protocol . . . to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Students at Glenn Dale, Kenilworth, Yorktown, Kingsford, Robert Goddard French Immersion, Mount Rainier and James McHenry elementary schools took the test a second time.

Segun Eubanks, chairman of the county’s Board of Education, said Monday that the school system wants to get to the bottom of the issue. “We’re trying to find out exactly what happened and why,” he said.

Elijah Gross, whose daughter attends Kingsford Elementary in Bowie, said he was shocked when he retrieved a letter from his daughter’s backpack that said the school had lost the test and that it had to be re-administered.

“It has come to our attention that the OLSAT that your child took earlier this year has been misplaced or damaged in transit,” Kingsford Principal Paulette Watkins wrote in the letter last month. “For this reason, we will be re-administering this test to your child on Tuesday, December 17th and Thursday, December 19th. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Gross said he wondered how the school could lose an assessment test, whether other students were affected and why it took months for parents to hear about the missing tests.

“They didn’t explain anything,” Gross said.

Eubanks said school district leaders were not aware the tests had been lost until Gross sent an e-mail to him Dec. 23. Eubanks then notified Schools Chief Executive Kevin Maxwell.

Gross said in the e-mail that he was “disappointed and insulted” that, based on the letter he received, the school and the district did not appear to consider the lost tests to be a serious issue.

“It is not fair to the students who took the test back in October to be retested without the parents being giving a quality explanation as to why the students have to be retested,” Gross wrote. “I do not consider a vague letter that states that the test was misplaced/damaged in transit sent home in my daughter’s backpack a quality explanation. . . . If my daughter or any other student does not turn in an assignment because it was misplaced/damaged, they will be held accountable by receiving a grade of zero for that assignment. The adults who were tasked with the responsibility of handling the test scores should be held accountable just as the students would be if they misplaced/damaged their homework.”

Eubanks said that missing test data is “critically important” and that parents “are rightly concerned.”

“Any time that sensitive and important materials like this are lost, we’re disappointed,” he said. “We know that mistakes happen, but we need to do a better job of communicating with parents.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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