The testing vendor in charge of new Smarter Balanced exams said miscalculations about how many scorers were needed led to delays in how fast the exams were scored in Washington state.
A scoring delay on Washington’s new statewide tests is largely the result of poor planning, an official with the group in charge of scoring the tests has said.
Washington state officials initially promised that school districts would receive students’ scores on the new Common Core-based exams, called Smarter Balanced, within three weeks after a student completed them. Quicker results were among the leading reasons why the state said it switched to the computer-based reading and math exams last year.
But some scores have been delayed several weeks because the state’s testing contractor — the American Institutes for Research (AIR) — and its partners didn’t get the scheduling right when hiring people to score the few parts of the tests that require human graders.
“The original plan was really quite ambitious, and it is something that we’ll probably get right next year,” said Jon Cohen, executive vice president at AIR.
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AIR and a scoring subcontractor, Measurement Inc., took “their best guesses” as to when school districts across about 10 states, including Washington, would test their students during a roughly three-month testing window, Cohen said.
At the beginning of the window, he said, “we had scorers sitting around twiddling their thumbs.”
Later, when more students started testing, they scrambled to recruit more scorers. That created a bottleneck. Next year, he said, the group will have better information about when schools are likely to give the exams and roughly how often questions arise that scorers will need to handle. Because the tests are adaptive, not all students answer the same questions.
“We’ll be able to know what the ebbs and flows in the scoring demands are,” he said.
For its part, officials at the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction have said they couldn’t explain the slowdown because they were focused on getting the scores out as quickly as possible.
Even with the delays, Cohen said scores will be available more quickly than in years past.
The state is paying AIR $24 million this year to administer the Smarter Balanced tests. Students in grades 3-8 and high-school juniors took the Smarter Balanced reading and math exams, and sophomores took the Smarter Balanced reading exams.