Errors found in Georgai’s alternative test affected special education students. (AJC File Photo)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ga. special ed students retaking exam after getting test books filled with errors

Special education students across Georgia got exams that were riddled with printing errors during this year’s administration of their state standardized tests.

Nearly 2,000 students with a learning disability get tested and some were confronted with tests and examiner’s instruction manuals that were missing sections or even whole pages.

“It’s concerning any time you’ve had the amount of errors they had,” said Jonathan Patterson, an associate superintendent in Gwinnett County. “You just hate to put that in front of teachers and kids.”

The Department of Education looked into the errors after receiving complaints from Gwinnett and other districts. The problems affected all test books for the English tests in grades six through eight, and for fifth-grade science.

It’s another blow for the image of standardized testing, which grew so unpopular after the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 that Congress in 2015 gave states more control over the way tests are used to hold schools accountable. Georgia subsequently reduced the effect of tests on school report cards.

The recent errors affected a portion of the 1% of students who take the Georgia Alternate Assessment. Other students take the Georgia Milestones, which are now underway in many districts. The two types of tests are supplied by different vendors, and the state agency attributed some of the problems to the Alternate Assessment vendor’s printer. The Milestones are mostly online.

School districts choose when to test within a window provided by the state, and the early districts alerted the education agency before most others started. That allowed the agency to send supplemental sheets to the remaining districts to use with kids who hadn’t tested. Districts that had already administered the tests were allowed to re-test the flawed portions.

Fulton County said teachers used the “errata sheets,” with “minimal” impact on students. But “our test coordinators and teachers were inconvenienced.” In Clayton County, there were so many errors that teachers halted testing, said Ebony Lee, an administrator over testing there. The district re-tested affected students once the corrected sections arrived late last month. Lee said she’s seen testing errors before, but “not to this level.”

Patterson described the errors seen in Gwinnett in examiner manuals or in test booklets: Seven pages missing, a page repeating out of sequence, a page missing a part.

Districts are waiting to hear whether the U.S. Department of Education will waive the results for the calculation of school accountability reports. Either way, said Patterson, “it still impacts the students.”

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