Why test scores were so late, or boiling student achievement down to a single (wrong) number

HARTFORD — State test scores usually come out in July. This year, they were late, released on August 13. Part of the reason, apparently, was that the 2013 CAPT and CMT assessment data released Tuesday was independently verified by an external auditor at the request of the state Department of Education.

The analysis confirmed and validated the accuracy of 2013 CAPT and CMT student assessment scores.

Why the audit? Well it seems that some mathematical errors were discovered recently in the state’s year-old School Performance Index (SPI).

Introduced last year, the index takes all scores from all students in a school (and district) over a three year period and turns it into an single number.  The new system is better, it is argued, because it doesn’t just measure students who manage to clear the goal and proficiency hurdles on tests but also captures progress of other students who are in the less desirable basic or below basic categories, as well as those in the advanced range.

Last year, when the SPI’s were announced, schools like Classical Studies Academy in Bridgeport were singled out for making significant progress, and Sherman School in Fairfield for being one of 46 schools in the state with the highest overall performance.

 Well, unceremoniously last week, the State Department of Education pulled down the School Performance Reporting website and Tuesday, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor told reporters the site, and index, contained  mistakes.
 The subsequent comprehensive analysis confirmed and validated the accuracy of 2013 CAPT and CMT student assessment scores, Pryor said.

Based on preliminary findings, the department expects that many 2012 SPIs will be slightly higher (less than one SPI point) than those previously posted for schools using CMT’s and slightly more than one SPI point for scores calculated using the CAPT. Reportedly, no state funding decisions were based on these SPIs and no district or school classification designations are expected to change.

The primary cause of inaccuracies stemmed from human error, according to the state. Data had been extracted from incorrect tables from a database. The underlying scores remain correct.

The Department hired Blum Shapiro, an auditing firm, to look at the state’s calculations and processes relating to test data and accountability. That work has begun. Once complete, the state will re-release last years SPIs.



Linda Lambeck