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4 state districts got wrong test-prep gear

by CYNTHIA HOWELL ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | April 15, 2011 at 3:10 a.m.

— At least four Arkansas school districts, including the large districts of Cabot and Bentonville, received from a test vendor the wrong materials to prepare kindergartners for this month’s Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

As a result, Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell must decide whether the reading comprehension section of the nationally standardized test will be scored, Seth Blomeley, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Thursday.

The state is in the first year of a seven-year, $63 million contract with Questar Assessment Inc. of Apple Valley, Minn., to conduct the statewide testing program, including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in grades kindergarten through nine. Questar subcontracts with Riverside of Chicago to assist in that.

A representative from Riverside sold some districts the wrong test preparation material earlier this year, Blomeley said.

The representative sold Level 5 materials instead of materials for the Level 6 test that was given to the state’s 37,701 kindergarten students over the past two weeks. The Level 6 version of the Iowa test for kindergartners includes the additional reading comprehension section.

Besides the Bentonville and Cabot districts, the Atkins and Bearden districts also obtained and used the wrong preparation materials, and there may be other districts that did so as well, Blomeley said.

Districts decided on their own whether to purchase and use test preparation materials and were not required by the state Education Department to do so.

The kindergarten test is used by schools and districts to gauge a child’s skills, Blomeley added, but there are no broader ramifications for the test.

The test results at the kindergarten level, for example, are not used to determine whether a school failed to meet minimum state achievement requirements and must be placed on the state’s school improvement list. Test results from grades three through eight are used for that purpose.

Kimbrell is analyzing the situation based on feedback he’s received from district officials, Blomeley said. “He wants to accurately assess student achievement. With that in mind, he is reviewing his options as far as the best method to score the test.”

Additionally, the state board will discuss the test at its May 16 meeting.

Arkansas, Pages 12 on 04/15/2011

Print Headline: 4 state districts got wrong test-prep gear

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