Students get to keep extra points despite Pearson testing error

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Mississippi Today

Mississippi Department of Education headquarters in Jackson.

The 951 students involved in a test reporting error will get to keep any extra points they earned as a result of the mix up, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

In a release sent Wednesday afternoon, MDE chief of accountability Paula Vanderford said the error did not have a negative impact on the high school seniors.

“Based on the data we currently have available at MDE, we have confirmed that no student was prevented from receiving a diploma as a result of the error by NCS Pearson,” she said in the release.

The scoring error occurred on a U.S. History state test produced by Bloomington, Minn-based NCS Pearson Inc. Although most students take the exam their junior year, there are re-testing opportunities senior year. Seniors who needed the test to graduate were told to take the test by May 6 in order to receive an expedited score.

Soon after, Pearson delivered a data file to MDE containing the scores of around 13,000 students. MDE then sent the scores for the 951 seniors included in that data to schools on May 12 so they could be factored in to students’ graduation files. Weeks later, however, officials with Pearson notified the Mississippi Department of Education of an error in scoring all 13,000 students’ tests.

In the release, MDE stated 754 of those 951 seniors failed the test and 197 passed. Of those who passed, 18.3 percent earned an extra point from the reporting error and “needed to meet additional graduation requirements to earn a diploma. Passage of the U.S. History assessment alone was not enough for them to graduate,” according to MDE. Ten students who graduated should not have, but did because of the extra point received.

Despite the mistake, MDE said it will not revoke any students’ diploma.

According to MDE, the error is the Pearson’s third in recent years. In 2012, answer choices for one question on the Biology I test were transposed, causing 126 students to receive failing scores. The second error took place in 2015, when online testing was interrupted for 5th and 8th grade science, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

The total cost of Pearson’s 10-year contract was about $28 million, but the State Board of Education voted during a meeting on June 16 to terminate the remainder of the contract. The board also approved a one-year emergency contract with Questar to administer the tests previously done by Pearson for upcoming school year. A search for a multi-year, more permanent replacement will begin in August.

School districts will receive preliminary results for other tested subjects Friday, including the results for all 27,000 students who took the U.S. History exam, according to release.