Late Tests Not The Only ISAT Problem

As a number of folks have noted (see previous posts), there's lots more to learn about this year's ISATs test-taking:  which schools took the test late (and are their scores unusually different), why some schools were taking the tests as late as last week, as one commenter attests.

The delay in test booklets and test administrations aren't the only goofs, however. 

As Chicago public school teacher Mark Neiberg describes here, this year's administration included misprinted booklets, unintended -- but highly predictable - overused of pens and highlighters by students -- and too little space for written answers, each of which could affect test reliability.

From Neiberg:

In addition to the delays, there were at least four other major problems with the ISAT administration last month:

1 -- Some test
booklets were printed with questions from one section duplicated into
another section of the test.  Students with these booklets had to stop
taking the test and wait for hours until new test booklets were found so testing could begin again.  This could result in poorer test performance by some students.

2 -- Part of the test
had an extended response component which required students to write
an essay. Harcourts instructions provided that students could use
a pen for their extended response and -- you guessed it -- some tests had the
multiple choice portion of the test answered with a pen. The computer is most accurate
if it reads answers marked in a number two pencil. A number three pencil
will cause problems; stray marks on the answer sheet will cause computer
confusion, and penned-in answers Houston we have a problem. 

3 -- The instructions from Harcourt permitted students to use colored
highlighters to emphasize information in the test booklet. In this way,
students could refer back to the test booklet for important information
to help them answer questions. Well, when a 10, 11 or 12 year old has
a pen, marker and pencil on their desk theyre going to use them,
and they did. Answer sheets were handed in with the extended response
parts of the test having colored graphs and underlined words. Harcourt
considers the answers invalid and wont accept them.

4 -- There wasn't enough space on the answer sheet for students
with large handwriting or who had a lot to say. Students who ran out
of space used separate sheets of paper to complete their answer. Administrators
and school personnel had to go through each test booklet looking for
written responses on loose paper.

To validate these answers and the  multiple color answers, Harcourt is requiring the separate sheet of
paper and colored answers to be copied and then re-written within the
space provided in another test booklet. But wait! CPS is advising school
administrators that Harcourts instructions are incorrect and if the
tests are copied and formatted back into a test booklet the test is

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