Thursday, November 03, 2005

Parent Empowerment Network discovers errors in released WASL test items --

Another one from the great Susan O'Hanian. This is just the beginning of what we could do if we organized to fight against what we know is not good for our children.

Press Release: For Immediate Release

Contact: Juanita Doyon, Director, Parent Empowerment Network 253-973-1593
Craig Vernon, PEN Member, 253-538-2906 (work)

In examining recently released 10th grade Math WASL items, a Parent Empowerment Network (PEN) research team in Western Washington discovered several errors. These errors were confirmed by PEN member and research consultant Dr. Donald Orlich, professor emeritus, WSU.

OSPI was made aware of several mistakes in the released tests and immediately removed the entire sample set from the OSPI website. The website now presents a statement in place of the released tests: "The practice high school WASL tests will be reposted next week. Several of the practice items were re-created incorrectly and we are working to correct those errors."

Craig Vernon, a professional civil engineer and member of PEN, from Spanaway, stated, "I found that Monday's released test combined with the answer key contained 7 errors in the multiple choice portion alone. This is a huge quality control issue on a 42 question test. If this is any indication of the actual test quality control, all previous data is in question. I also found problems with the subjective grading criteria for the written problems: correctly answered problems were not given full credit due to quirks in the written response requirements of the grading guidelines."

"This is just one more nail in WASL's coffin," said Juanita Doyon, Director of PEN. "It took parents to find these mistakes. Obviously, there is a quality control problem within OSPI and Pearson Education Measurement, the testing company contracted by Washington State. We have no reason to believe that the 2006 WASL, a test that students must pass in order to receive a diploma, will be of any higher quality than previous tests or these released items. It is appalling that the legislature continues to underwrite this ill-conceived and poorly administered assessment system that mislabels and causes great harm to our students, teachers and schools. The state superintendent has set a standard of educational performance for students and teachers that her office is failing to meet!"

Just two weeks ago, PEN learned that Pearson misscored tests in Virginia, causing 60 students to receive failing scores when they had actually passed the test. The Virginia Speaker of the House has called for a full investigation into that state's $138 million contracts with Pearson. In 2000, Pearson used the wrong answer key on 47,000 student tests in Minnesota, which resulted in a $7 million lawsuit settlement.

PEN calls on the legislature to launch a full investigation into this matter and calls upon the Attorney General to halt the destruction of student test booklets. Student tests from 2004 are scheduled to be destroyed within the next few months. This would destroy evidence of error. In addition, the PEN director and Mr. Craig Vernon will seek a meeting with members of the Attorney General's staff to demand full disclosure of the conditions which led to the release and subsequent removal of WASL test items, administrative items and scoring guides that contained egregious errors.

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