Originally created 06/26/02

Testing company error delays Georgia pupil results



ATLANTA - A testing company hired to give standardized tests to almost 340,000 Georgia elementary school pupils made serious errors in grading them, delaying indefinitely the results for teachers and parents.

The state Department of Education sent a letter to all school systems Tuesday warning them that the test results are bad and asking them to destroy score reports for the Stanford Achievement Test Series, called the Stanford 9.

Some, but not all, of the results had been sent out to schools, department spokeswoman Sarah Abbott said.

The tests are given to all third-, fifth- and eighth-graders but are used only for planning purposes and do not affect whether pupils pass or fail, or whether teachers receive bonuses.

The problem was not with the tests but in the way they were scored, Ms. Abbott said. Education officials noticed the scores were "way off" from last year in several categories and alerted the testing company, Harcourt Inc. of Orlando, Fla.

Carol Rountree, the director of guidance and testing for Richmond County schools, said officials are still trying to assess what this means for local schools. She said a form letter from the company will be sent to all principals and parents notifying them of the errors.

The Stanford 9 was first administered last year as a way to compare Georgia pupils with pupils in other states. The company missed two deadlines to report scores to Georgia last year and has also had glitches in standardized test results in Arizona, Massachusetts and California.

The state Board of Education recently voted to make the tests optional starting next year. Gov. Roy Barnes has not decided whether to approve that recommendation.

Harcourt is paid about $540,000 a year to create and grade the tests, Ms. Abbott said. The company did not immediately respond to phone calls, and it was not clear whether the problem occurred in other states.

Ms. Abbott said there were some problems with the test results last year, but they were not so bad as to need regrading, which appears to be the case now.

"We're just figuring out how to regrade these as soon as possible," she said.