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October 14, 2014 at 2:57 PM

State invalidates test scores at Seattle elementary school

Editor’s note: Read an updated version of this story here.

The state is throwing out some of the spring test scores for a Seattle elementary school after finding heavy erasure marks on the test booklets. The invalidated scores are for the reading and math exams taken by students in grades 3, 4 and 5.

Seattle Public Schools asked for the review of Beacon Hill International School’s test scores in August after results showed that passage rates in math and reading were dramatically higher than the year before.

No school or district employees have been placed on administrative leave as a result of the investigation’s findings, school district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said.

“Our independent investigator is continuing to investigate,” Howard said. “Unfortunately, we still don’t know who’s responsible.”

It’s the first time the state has  done a schoolwide review of test scores since testing began in 1997.

Here’s the letter that  Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland is sending to Beacon Hill parents today:

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

Every year, our students take several tests that help us measure their progress in our core subjects. These assessments are used to ensure we are making progress and to help us make sure our students are receiving the support they need. I am proud of the fact we typically outperform the state in these assessments, and that many of our schools are making strong year-to-year gains.

In August, while reviewing the Spring 2014 test scores, Seattle Public Schools’ Research, Evaluation and Assessment team noticed unusually high test scores in the state Measures of Student Progress (MSP) for Beacon Hill International School, as compared to the 2013 scores. I want to note that BHIS has made remarkable progress over the years, and we certainly expect them to perform highly. However, our team noticed a remarkable jump in scores that is not typical. We immediately flagged the scores and reported the finding to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). At the same time, we hired an independent investigator to help determine what might have happened.

OSPI conducted a review of the Beacon Hill test booklets – paper and pencil – for grades 3-5 and found heavy erasures in the booklets. OSPI believes the test responses were altered in such a way as to significantly increase total scores of students taking the state reading and math tests. OSPI notified SPS last week that they will invalidate those test scores. The district’s outside investigator is continuing to work on determining what happened. In the meantime, I want the public to know that we support our Beacon Hill students, staff and teachers.

MSP tests are typically used in conjunction with other measures for accountability reporting, school goal setting, teacher and principal evaluations, and year-end program analysis. They are conducted in 3rd through 5th grade in elementary schools. These scores are not a primary indicator for student placement in advanced learning.

That said, Spring 2014 was the last MSP test session for SPS. This year the district will initiate Smarter Balanced testing, which better evaluates student progress toward college and career readiness.

Please know that we are working to determine what happened, and also continuing to put steps in place to assure our students’ hard work is recognized by the state, and can be used to help our teachers and principals improve instruction.


Dr. Larry Nyland

Interim Superintendent

Seattle Public Schools


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