• January 29, 2015

Standardized test questions released accidentally

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Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 8:29 am

DALLAS — The company that runs Texas' standardized school tests is acknowledging it accidentally released to test scorers two English essay questions before the exams were given.

Officials at the testing firm Pearson told The Dallas Morning News the mistake was theirs and expressed regret.

The English tests were given March 31 and April 1, and the two questions appeared a few days earlier in emails sent to scorers.

Officials with the Texas Education Agency said the likelihood is small that the information reached students but they will be examining scores in districts where the scorers who obtained the questions teach.

The questions normally are given to scorers but not until after the tests are given.

The TEA said emails were sent to 650 scorers, 98 of them in Texas. Of those in Texas, 15 teach in middle or high schools and seven teach in elementary schools. Some of the other scorers are retired Texas teachers.

"There is no evidence that this situation represents a systemic problem with Pearson's management of the testing system," TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said.

Pearson took responsibility when contacted Wednesday by the newspaper about the breach.

"The mistake was ours, and we regret it," said Dave Clark, Pearson's vice president of state services. "Assuring the highest security of test materials is of the utmost priority, and one error is too many. We immediately reviewed the matter and took swift action to help prevent the issue from recurring, including adding technological changes to further safeguard against any potential untimely release of any test item."

Pearson declined to say whether this had ever happened before with one of its tests. It declined to explain how the mistake occurred.

Texas pays Pearson about $90 million a year for testing services. The current contract is up next year.

The company is the world's largest education company and book publisher.

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