Education commissioner on inaccurate tests: 'I'm very frustrated, incredibly disappointed'

2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago Thursday, August 31 2017 Aug 31, 2017 Thursday, August 31, 2017 6:36:00 PM CDT August 31, 2017 in News
By: Amber Sipe, KOMU 8 Reporter

JEFFERSON CITY – Test results from two statewide high school assessments will not be used to measure school districts’ performance, according to Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven.

Nine tests are given to high school students across Missouri at least one time in the student’s career after the completion of certain courses. Those tests are part of the Missouri Assessment Program administered by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

“This impacts various grade levels,” Vandeven said.

DESE received the results for those tests in late July and “determined immediately that they needed to have a further review,” Vandeven said.

Some school districts noticed the scores did not accurately reflect the school districts’ performance when compared to the variance in numbers over the years.

“We wanted to make sure that what they would be indicating would be clear of what was happening in the schools,” Vandeven said.

Once looked at by national assessment experts, it was determined that the Algebra I and English II tests would not be publicly reported or used for year-to-year comparison data.

The two tests are used at the state level for the Missouri School Improvement Program Annual Performance Report that is published yearly. At least 23 assessments are used to make up this report, along with attendance rates, graduation rates, etc.

“We will continue to calculate the annual performance report, but it will just be absent of those two tests,” Vandeven said.

DESE will be looking at how the removal of the tests will impact that report and making sure the report is still accurate. 

Vandeven said the vendor of the tests, Questar, will be held accountable, but she could not get into specifics. She said the department is working with an attorney and the attorney does not know where this situation will end.

Questar was not available for comment on Thursday.

“I’m very frustrated, incredibly disappointed,” Vandeven said. “Our teachers and our students, they work hard every day… I’m frustrated for them. I know they feel let down." 

The state has encouraged that part of the results are used for the students’ final grades and to determine scholarship eligibility, since the tests are designed like a final exam.

“Students do not need to retake these tests, it is the year-to-year comparability that is at question,” Vandeven said.

This was already the last year for those assessment tests, and the districts will be switching over to a new assessment system on new standards.

With this new system, they will increase quality assurance checks and use the assessments to figure out exactly what is needed in schools.

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