Some schools to be able to wipe out AIMS scores over glitch
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 15, 2006
A glitch in scoring caused wild swings in the 2006 AIMS writing scores, and the
state will allow some schools to wipe out the results.
State officials said the problems were concentrated in elementary grades and did
not involve high schools, where students must pass the reading, writing and math
AIMS exam to graduate.
Schools were eagerly awaiting the results of the investigation because the
scores are used to help determine state school rankings, from "excelling"
through "failing," to be released in October. Arizona schools chief Tom Horne
said any school negatively affected by the writing score problems would be
permitted to file an appeal. If state officials agree, the scores would not be
used. Horne said the state has not determined how many schools could be
District officials began seeing wide swings in the writing scores as soon as
they examined the AIMS results in June. Statewide scores, released in July,
showed the same skewed results, with the percent passing in some grades
plummeting and, in others, skyrocketing.
Here's what state officials say caused the problem:
Model essays are used to guide the people hired and trained by the state's
testing company to score the essays. In 2005, the state used model essays
selected by its former testing company. For 2006, the state's new company, CTB/McGraw-Hill,
gathered a committee of Arizona teachers at its California scoring center, where
they selected the 2006 model essays for all grades, a spokeswoman said.
State officials now say these models were very different from 2005. For example,
the model essay used to determine whether sixth-graders passed the essay test
was less advanced this year, so the percentage of sixth-graders passing the AIMS
writing section skyrocketed 18 points. The model essay used to determine whether
third-graders passed was far more advanced, so the percentage of them passing
the test plummeted 20 points.
State officials said they were far more involved in selecting model essays used
for the high school writing test because students must pass the exam to help
earn their diplomas. More teachers selected more model papers to help guide
scorers. Even so, the percentage of high school sophomores passing the AIMS
writing section fell to 68 percent in 2006 from 74 percent in 2005.
State officials called that a small drop. The state changed the kind of essay
high school students were expected to write this year from a persuasive one to a
personal narrative, and state officials said that could account for the dip.
Horne said the 2005 and 2006 models should have been better coordinated and the
department has taken steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.