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State tosses out test results

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Eight local students who took end-of-course exams at area high schools last school year had to retake the tests after the state invalidated their test results.

Three students from Whiteland Community High School and three students from Edinburgh Community High School had their Algebra I end-of-course assessment results invalidated.

At Indian Creek High School, one student’s Biology I exam and another student’s English 10 exam were disqualified, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

Details on why the end-of-course exams were invalidated at Edinburgh and Indian Creek weren’t available from the state; the three Whiteland students had their exams invalidated because of proctor error, according to the department of education data.

Students at Whiteland don’t typically have their tests invalidated, partly because teachers and anyone else who handles the exams are trained in how the state expects the tests to be conducted, Clark-Pleasant assistant superintendent John Schilawski said.

But when the state’s standards aren’t followed — which is what happened at Whiteland — the test results are thrown out.

Thrown out

Here’s a look at the end-of-course exams that were invalidated locally and across the state in 2013:

In Indiana: 197 exams across 110 school districts

In Johnson County: Eight exams; three at Whiteland Community High School; three at Edinburgh Community High School; two at Indian Creek High School

What are end-of-course assessments: Exams students take at the end of Algebra I and English 10, gauging how much they’ve learned. Students must pass both exams in order to graduate

That means that students have to retake the test, and it also affects the way the high school is evaluated by the department of education.

“It’s just unfortunate that, from time to time, those sorts of situations occur,” Schilawski said.

Students have to pass the Algebra I and English 10 exams before graduating. They typically take the tests at the end of their freshman and sophomore years, and last school year that would have included more than 162,000 students.

Across the state, 197 total tests given in 110 school districts were invalidated, according to the department of education.

An end-of-course assessment can be invalidated for a number of reasons, including technical errors, a student who doesn’t take the test genuinely — they finish an exam designed to take an hour in two minutes — or because a school or teacher failed to meet the testing standards set by the state, Schilawski said.

The proctor errors at Whiteland were reported after someone notified school officials that there was a concern about whether all of the Algebra I exams conducted were meeting the state’s exam requirements for how tests must be given, Schilawski said.

Proctors, who administer the test to students, are trained in what kinds of prompts or assistance test supervisors can give students. And if a teacher, student or anyone believes there is a problem with how the tests are being conducted, school officials immediately begin reviewing whether testing standards were met. They also notify the department of education to see what else needs to happen, Schilawski said.

Typically the department of education tells school officials to continue their investigation, before eventually deciding whether the test is still valid, Schilawski said.

When students either fail, or have their end-of-course exam invalidated, they take the exam again, typically once a semester, until they pass. At Whiteland, students who have to retake the test are also placed in remediation courses, which are intended to help students better understand sections of the test they didn’t master, Schilawski said.

But students in the remediation courses still remain on track to graduate. In algebra, for example, Algebra II, which is the course that typically follows Algebra I, is one of the remediation courses that many students take, Schilawski said.

The invalidated test scores also affect the high school’s evaluation by the state.

Some of the factors included in the state’s assessment of a high school are the number of students who passed the end-of-course assessments during their first tries, as well as the number who passed follow-up exams. So when students’ exams are invalidated, that can impact how the high school is assessed by the department of education, Schilawski said.

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