Sixty-four third-graders — including 12 from Long Island — were erroneously given exams meant for fourth-graders on the first day of computer-based English Language Arts testing in New York, state education officials confirmed Monday.
The errors affected students in three of the four Long Island school districts that introduced the electronic Common Core tests Monday: seven students in Franklin Square, four in Mount Sinai and one in Remsenburg-Speonk. Most students in grades three to eight will begin taking the standardized state tests with paper and pencil Tuesday.
Officials from Questar Assessment, the Minneapolis company that administers the tests, notified educators as the exams were underway, officials said.
“This morning Questar became aware that a very small number of students at a handful of schools experienced a technical error causing the grade 4 English Language Arts exam to appear rather than the grade 3 exam,” said Emily DeSantis, an Education Department spokeswoman, in a statement. “As soon as becoming aware of the issue, Questar immediately contacted these schools so the affected students could stop taking the tests. Parents of the affected students will be notified by the schools.”
Officials from Questar did not respond to requests for comment.
The mix-up is the latest twist in the saga of the Common Core tests, which have met resistance from parents since they were introduced in 2013.
Maura Gallagher, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Franklin Square district, said she was angered by Monday’s mistake. Educators received a call an hour and 45 minutes into the exam alerting them of the error, and they let students finish the untimed exams, Gallagher said.
“We’re trying to encourage people to participate in state testing and to follow the proper protocol, and for this to happen is despicable,” Gallagher said. “I’m not subjecting my students to sit for Part 1 over again after they already sat down for Part 1 and were given the wrong test from Questar.”
DeSantis said the affected third-graders will not be asked to retake the first part of the third-grade exam “unless parents indicate they would like their child to.”
DeSantis said the 64 students in the state who received the wrong exams were from 14 schools in nine districts. In all, 4,146 students took computer-based exams on Monday, in which tablets, Chromebooks and computers are allowed.
About 150 districts in the state are offering computerized English Language Arts exams, as are 136 districts for the state math exams, scheduled for May 1-8.
DeSantis said the department “planned for potential technical difficulties” and that staffers from the education department and Questar were available to help schools as needed.
Ronald Masera, superintendent of the Remsenburg-Speonk school district, said that one student in his district noticed something was wrong and notified his proctor immediately. He was then given the age-appropriate exam.
Switching to computerized testing did not prevent students from opting out. Nearly 43 percent of 609 eligible students declined to take exams at the four Long Island districts that began offering computer-based testing on Monday, according to district data reviewed by Newsday.
In all, eight Long Island districts are offering computer-based tests this week, but not to every grade in the district.
In the Bridgehampton district, 64 percent of students opted out of computer-based tests on Monday. The Mount Sinai district saw 51.2 percent of students refuse to take the exams, followed by Remsenburg-Speonk with 45.3 percent and Franklin Square with 22.4 percent.
Gallagher said she believed that parents of students involved in the mix-up are not “going to want their kids to be retested.”
“I think given it was a harder test, and a grade level above the test they should have been taking, it definitely added a heightened anxiety for the students,” she said.
Masera said he “didn’t expect a perfect implementation. I think these are the types of things in a first-time administration that you come across, that sometimes need to be remedied so you can make it better for the future.”
He added that his district decided to participate, “knowing that throughout the county and the Island, the opt-out numbers were so high that there wasn’t a whole lot of risk in doing it now.”