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.)

  • Nab71

    I’m not surprised. The companies pay the graders next to nothing. The guidelines can lead to artificially low scores. In the composition portions of the Language Arts exam a student who writes a well organized,clear, concise and cogent reply is graded down if the length does not meet the unpublished grading guidelines.

  • mikey

    Just remember, this was on the MATH portion of the MCAS…

  • emom

    Are we even surprised at this,,, How many more questions have wrong answers,,, How many students took the exam actually passed and had to retake it and really didnt need too.. Who is actually rechecking these exams.. actually just ditch them ,,,, so many teachers I have talked to hate them, parents are stressed over them and students well are not learning what they should be learning… Teacher our children important information instead of how to pass these MCAS test…

  • dan


  • cleversey

    These MCAS “exams” are nothing more than educational scams iniitiated by liberal democrats.

  • Len

    No matter what, some people just can’t seem to be positive, or agree on anything. Hmmm, does this seem like our congress???

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