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TerraNova mistakes shouldn’t affect county

by Merrie Leininger

Douglas County administrators say they will not know how a mistake made in compiling TerraNova test results will affect the district’s scores.

“Mostly it affected those students in the bottom (25 percent). It could have a 5-8 percentile point difference to those students and a 1-2 percentile point difference to those students in the middle or top quartiles. It didn’t sound like it would make that much difference,” said Superintendent Pendery Clark.

Clark said representatives of McGraw-Hill, which produces and scores the standardized tests, and the department of education met with the school district superintendents last week.

She explained the mistake affected the percentiles reported, but not the scores. For example, if a student was reported to have earned 30 out of 50 right, that was correct. However, when the scores were passed onto the group who do the “equating study,” the scores were not converted to the correct percentiles.

The equating study is supposed to ensure the two forms of the test are equal in difficulty.

Nevada students took the B form of the test last year and Douglas County’s assessments coordinator, Janice Florey, commented at the time that Douglas’ lower-than -normal scores were questionable.

“I noticed it and did question the process with the state consultant and the state director of assessments in Clark County. Once she got Clark County’s results and voiced similar concerns, Nevada asked the company to look into it,” Florey said.

Nevada was the first state to voice such concerns, but questions were discounted until other states began to raise similar questions.

The difference is so small, and Douglas County schools still scored higher than the average for state and national schools, that the change is not expected to affect Douglas County much.

Clark explained the difference will be to those Nevada schools who were given money and deemed “inadequate” based on the last two years’ scores.

“It is important to learn that whenever you make really high stakes decisions based on one test, it is risky because mistakes are made in anything,” she said.

She cited the state’s proficiency test, which all Nevada students have to pass in order to graduate. Clark gave another example of 9,000 New York students who were required to go to summer school as a result of last year’s TerraNova scores.