Newton Student Finds MCAS Grading Error That Affected 70K Kids

NEWTON (CBS/AP) – Massachusetts education officials say more than 3,000 students who passed the spring 2011 Grade 10 MCAS math test achieved a higher performance level than first indicated.

The error was first realized by a student at Newton North High School.

Like any smart kid, Michael Safran went over his MCAS test results when he got them back in the mail. He only got one question wrong in math, which grades out to the highest level of advanced. But something wasn’t quite right.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to look into things if they don’t seem like what they should be,” Safran told WBZ-TV’s Jim Smith.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Smith reports.

He checked the conversion chart, and a raw score of 59 out of 60 should have been scaled to a perfect final score of 280, not the 276 he received.

Mike called the Education Department to report the problem, and sure enough the chart was wrong.

He should have gotten a 280.

“People might think ‘he was just trying to receive that 280 score searching for any points he can get.’ It didn’t really matter to me. I wasn’t looking for that. It just didn’t see right, so I wanted to look further into it,” said Safran.

School districts were informed Friday that although the tests were accurately scored, an error made by the testing contractor resulted in inaccurately scaled scores for the 70,000 students who took the test. As a result, 3,521 students statewide were misclassified with a performance level that was too low.

Now, performance levels for 1,364 students will increase from “needs improvement” to “proficient.” The performance levels of 1,887 students will increase from “proficient” to “advanced.”

Statewide, the corrected performance level means that 77 percent of 10th graders scored “proficient” or higher in math, up 2 percent from the previously reported figure of 75 percent.

“I’m very shocked by it. I never thought a small little inquiry of mine would make 70,000 kids now receive a new test scores. I’m sure they’re very excited too,” he admitted.

Michael’s dad, Alan is a proud father.

He also happens to be a former State Deputy Education Commissioner who helped implement the very first MCAS tests about 10 years ago.

“He wasn’t doing this for himself. it really didn’t make a difference for himself. But he saw something wrong,” said Alan. “He wanted to ask a question. He asked a question. I’m very proud of that.”

Mike received a personal phone call from the governor.

“She said ‘I’m about to patch you through to the governor. How does that feel?’ I never expected that to happen,” he said.

Because Michael’s a junior at Newton North he’s already starting to think about what college he will attend. One thing he won’t have to worry about is having a great subject for his essay.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


More From CBS Boston

Summer of Savings
Download Weather App

Listen Live