Sunday, September 22, 2013

OSPI Doesn't Spot-Check State Tests

The Seattle Times has quite the lengthy article about how Washington State could have a cheating scandal, but doesn't know it, because OSPI doesn't do spot-checks on student tests.

I read this article waiting for some evidence to show itself but it didn't. I'm not saying the theory is wrong but apparently, not that many districts or even schools rise to a level of concern in Washington State. The Times seems to think because this is happening in other parts of the country, it might be happening here.

To note, there ARE measures in place in Washington state- staff is trained in test security and there are testing proctors.

OSPI has strict procedures for everything from how to lock up exams before and after they're given, what teachers can say and do during testing, even what should happen if a students needs to use the bathroom.

The state asks school and district staff to report any irregularities - inadvertent mistakes, as well as suspected tampering. It also has a hotline for anonymous reports.

Naturally, you might ask why doesn't OSPI do more? One big reason is that the Legislature cut dollars everywhere in education. So I would suspect OSPI wanted most of those dollars to go to classrooms and not test score analysis. I'd have to ask them.
In Washington, for example, the state pays $30M a year to the contractor that develops and scores state tests.  An erasure analysis, Hanczrik said, would cost $100,000 more.

The article says that OSPI doesn't look for "improbably high gains in a school or district's scores." I'm not sure I believe that OSPI wouldn't be aware if this happened because that would be a huge red flag. OSPI may not have it in policy but I'd willing to bet if they saw some weird things happening in a single class or school, they would say something.

The Times says that 37 states do have "one kind or another" of post-test analysis.

The article points out that as more districts move to computer testing, there may be less need for paper and pencil analysis but more oversight of too-quick responses by students.

It almost feels like this article is one in search of big story! but falls short.

Also, fyi, in yet another Times shake-up, education reporter Linda Shaw is off to do another project for a year. Their new reporter is John Higgins, an education reporter lately from Akron, Ohio who has also worked on research at MIT on mind and brain development and education.


Catherine said...

I would think that basic data integrity spot-checking should be included in the basic test fee of $30 Million. If we're rating teachers and schools and potentially firing and closing schools based on test scores - then a data and process integrity check have got to be there before we have an issue (more issues).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Catherine.