TEA official: STAAR test scoring problem is statewide

The Texas Education Agency is acknowledging problems with scoring on part of December’s STAAR test go beyond North Texas.

No one has the answer as to how it happened but say students are at risk because of an error in grading the short answer essay on the English I and English II STAAR tests administered in December.

Every student’s future hangs on the STAAR since the End of Course exam must be passed to graduate. Lewisville ISD was the first to go public with a problem centered on the scoring of the short answer or essay portion of the test.

“We don’t think that it’s just going to be Lewisville ISD that sees these problems,” said Trisha Sheffield with the district. “We do believe it will be statewide.”

After Lewisville ISD revealed their problem, Arlington ISD also started backtracking after they noted lower scores than previous years.

“We also did a comparison to see how that tracks with past years and we did have more students have that problem this year,” said Leslie Johnson with Arlington ISD. “We definitely want to take a further look and see if those may have been mis-scored and need to be sent back in.”

State Education Commissioner Mike Morath with the TEA tells FOX 4 calls have come from districts in different parts of the state.

“We have heard some concerns about an unusually high number of low scores with that particular administration compared to prior years,” said Morath.

The commissioner says there is an overwhelming number of test scores found to be entirely accurate but understands the angst of affected students.

Cecilia Oakeley with Dallas ISD says 97 of their students had tests that were sent in to be re-scored. Thirteen of the students were seniors.

“But those kids have already retested at the end of March because they thought that they had failed,”said Oakeley. “If they show that they had passed, they will have taken that test without needing to.”

This is first year ETS has been the vendor on the STAAR as they won a four-year $350,000,000 contract. It's had problems before the scoring flaw not being overlooked by the commissioner.

“They have not had an error-free track record,” said Morath. “We’ve communicated our concerns to them and stated, in no uncertain terms, it needs to get error-free for the May administration. Otherwise, we're going to consider rebidding the contract.”

Lewisville ISD had requested they be able to actually look at the written tests to see how they were scored. Commissioner Morath says TEA is working on a way for that to happen while maintaining the security of the test.