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Thousands Caught In Special Education Testing Snafu


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A leading education firm is acknowledging that it messed up when evaluating alternative assessments for thousands of students with disabilities.

Pearson said this week that there were errors affecting more than 4,400 students who were part of the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program, which offers alternative assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities, the company said.

Unlike traditional testing, the alternative assessments are designed to measure student progress by evaluating a portfolio of work completed over the course of the year.

While the students’ tests were scored accurately, the company said there were mistakes made in converting the scores to reflect a level of achievement: pass/proficient, pass/advanced or fail.

“We sincerely apologize to the students, parents, schools and school divisions as well as to our colleagues at the Virginia Department of Education,” Pearson said in a statement. “We understand the importance of accurate reporting and know that the school divisions are now working very hard to make internal adjustments to their scores before reporting them to parents and the state.”

However, the error was not caught before some parents were provided incorrect results, The Washington Post reports. Many parents were told this summer that their children passed the test when they actually had not.

A spokesman for the state Department of Education told the newspaper that the situation is “truly regrettable.”

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Comments (10 Responses)

  1. jean sanders says:

    I can’t say regrettable; I call this egregious error; and it was advertent on the part of the state department of education that these students are falsely being penalized. I live in Massachusetts; I taught only one year in Virginia; I would advise the local schools to have their parents call the Governor’s office.

  2. robert lilienthal says:

    This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode about “having a car reservation, but not having a car”. If a company knows what is right and wrong, and understands the parents/school/student dilemma in being accurate, and feels terrible about the premature reporting of inaccurate information, and apologizes for it; does anything matter? Is all forgiven? Is it just an oversight, a mistake, a blunder, an accident? Sort of like the lady who was fired because she helped the innocent rapist get out of jail after 14 years. When does the crap end?

  3. Theresa_rhodus says:

    Why do they even need to alternative testing to see if they are progressing? Shouldn’t the benchmarks and goals on their IEP’s show this?

  4. CJ says:

    The alternative testing in Massachusetts is a joke. The portfolios are put together by the teachers so a good portion of the score will be determined by how good a job the teacher did. And at least in MA, unless the work in the portfolio showed the student was at grade level, there was no chance of passing and no chance of getting a diploma.

  5. Gayla Ward says:

    I think the temptation for schools is to turn in fraudulent State assessment results for individual students like my son who has severe autism is nonverbal is severely disabled and behind his peers in all areas of his education. When we received the results of his alternative state assessments for 4th grade and found out he knew what planet he lived on and could read and compile a graph we requested the actual assessment materials he was tested with and his answers. Never in any of his school years on any of his IEPs were there goals to work on these and other things that he was assessed on. We are 100% sure he was prompted through his assessments. For what planet he lived on he was given a picture of the sun and the earth and he had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. With 5 trials he never got it wrong. For graphing he put a sticker by each of his classmates names if they were present that day. There were other examples of things he supposedly got exemplary on for which he did not demonstrate in trials at home. We almost filed a complaint with the state against the school for fraud but instead just requested that he be excused from taking assessments the following year and we will request it again for each year. What a waste of time for him and his teachers.

  6. Lisa S says:

    This testing is absurd! My daughter has severe cognitive delays and her diagnosis states that she will plateau or regress at age 2-3. She is almost 13 and functions as a 3-5 year old. Last year her VAAP’s required her to understand “simple idioms”…she is extremely literal and can not understand them. They wanted her to perform multiplication with products up to 50, she cannot add!! She needed to know the intrinsic meaning of fictional and non-fictional texts…she cannot read!! Her favorite book is “When You Give A Mouse a Cookie” and the only thing non-fiction she might look at are the instructions to a toy. We went to our senator to ask for her to be able to opt out with no penalties or to have the test brought back to the students present level…not grade level (she is only in 7th grade on paper). We have opted out of testing for next year and the school and teacher will receive a “0” for a test that my daughter cannot even comprehend…nor does she care. But if she could comprehend what they are asking her to do, which she cannot do…we might be looking at a mental break down.

  7. Joyce Olson says:

    I hope there are lawsuits over this mess! I am so glad that my children graduated a few years ago so they didn’t have to endure our obsession with “testing, testing and then more testing.” I don’t know if the obsessive federal law is No Child Left Behind or Individuals with Disabilities Act 2004. I suspect that No Child Left Behind is the driver in our obsessions!

  8. Cherry Six says:

    This snafu is indicative that professionals can and do make mistakes regarding education. “A spokesman for the state Department of Education told the newspaper that the situation is “truly regrettable””.

    Well Mr spokesman from the state Department of Education, it is always regrettable that children with disabilities are also not provided with a free appropriate public education where their civil rights are also violated by many of the state principals and superintendents within your state, also.

  9. Mary K. Jackson says:

    Parents &their children need apologies. They struggle enough in every day life. I taught student with special needs for 12 years and constantly had to fight for their rights to a free and appropriate education. The company that score these test incorrectly need to publically apologize to the families

  10. Catherine Jackson says:

    A similar situation occurred with one of my students several years ago. He was a senior, and there was a question about his credits. He had been told one thing, and was operating under that assumption. When the district said their information was incorrect, I insisted that he still be given the diploma (vs. a certificate), given the fact that the student was working towards it in good faith. They acquiesced, reluctantly, but soon after clarified the guidelines with the students attending the vocational/career center. That was fine, as long as they honored their commitment to my student first!

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