Inaccurate Test Results Jeopardize Budgets, Student Placements

Wednesday, August 24th 2011, 10:32 pm
By: News 9

Michael Konopasek, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's top educator says major errors in student testing results are jeopardizing a number of things including school district budgets and accurate student placements.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi says the errors are causing frustration among parents and confusion for teachers.

The state Department of Education says the errors were made by Pearson, a nationwide testing company that the state pays to administer its standardized tests. The results are used to determine things like class placement and advancement. But, right now, the results are not helping determine anything.

Nearly a month after students returned to class in Oklahoma City, accurate results from last year's standardized testing are still unavailable to parents and educators across the state.

"[The testing results] could come back and say that [my daughter] failed the test or did poor when she really didn't," Raelynn Lovelace, concerned mother and teacher said.

Parents like Lovelace are left blinded, not knowing what to do.

"[We're hearing] frustration from parents… confusion by principals and… superintendents," Barresi said.

Barresi says even though learning continues in Oklahoma classrooms, the errors are halting progress for every school district in the state.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Barresi said. "In order to properly serve our students classroom teachers, principals, and superintendents must have accurate data."

The test results direct education budgets and allow the state to report student progress to the federal government under No Child Left Behind, a federal education act that was adopted during the George W. Bush administration.

Barresi says the delayed and inaccurate results may cost the state money. The state could lose money due to local budget issues as well as to the federal government for the delayed testing result reporting.

But, Barresi says, the state monetary woes is a battle for another day. The first battle is to get the correct results in.

"We're going to make sure that accurate data gets out to these districts, that's job [number] one," Barresi said.

In a statement to News 9, the testing company, Pearson, insists the student scores are accurate and says only demographic data was flawed.

This is not the first time Oklahoma and other states have had problems with Pearson. Barresi says the state should discontinue its contract with the company. The state's Department of Central Services is the body that would determine whether or not the Department of Education will sever ties with Pearson.

There's no word on when the accurate results will be available, but when they do come in, the state Department of Education says it will be up to individual school districts to decide whether students can transition into their appropriate classes since school has already started.