Scores on a standardized test taken last month by about 120 Ballou High School juniors have been rejected by a national testing agency because the students were given too much time to complete their answers, D.C. Schools Superintendent Floretta McKenzie said yesterday.
Counselors administering the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Tests [PSAT] to the students "thought they took too long to explain the answer sheets," and, on the following day, gave students additional time to finish the tests, McKenzie said.
She said the school's principal, Helena Jones, discovered that the exam was improperly handled, reported it to her superiors and immediately notified Educational Testing Service, which devises and scores the tests.
The exam, an indicator of how a student will perform on college entrance tests that is also used in selecting finalists of a national scholarship program, is supposed to be given during a specific time on one day, McKenzie said.
She said the improper procedure used at Ballou was an isolated case and that she expects the testing agency to recommend a way for students to retake the test.
A representative of the testing service could not be reached last night.
"It's always regrettable when something like this happens because of the impact it has on the students," said Board of Education member Edna Frazier-Cromwell, who chairs a committee that oversees testing in the schools. "I have an understanding that it was failure of a timing device. We plan to look into it to make sure that we prevent it from happening again."
"As I understand it," McKenzie said, "there was a new answer sheet and the counselors felt they took too long to explain the answer sheets to the students. They felt the students had lost time on the test, so they tried to give them the time they lost the next day.
"Regrettably," she said, "the counselors thought that they could give the kids the time that they perceived they had lost. It was just a bad judgment call. We're going to work and make sure the kids are not hurt."
Scores on the tests are used to qualify students as National Merit Scholars and National Achievement Scholars, who usually receive funds from colleges for their educational expenses.
"[The scores] can be worth some money," McKenzie said. "That's why it's important for us to work out an alternative so the kids will get the credit. The college board will tell us what the alternatives are."
Counselors have said that they are anxious to help students do as well as they can on standardized tests.
"There is heightened awareness [and] sometimes counselors try too hard" to help students do well on the tests, McKenzie said.