Harcourt penalized for errors in high school tests | NevadaAppeal.com

Harcourt penalized for errors in high school tests

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The company handling Nevada’s high school proficiency tests has agreed to $425,000 in fines because of testing errors in April.

The errors resulted in 736 freshmen and juniors who passed the mandatory math tests being told they failed. Students must pass those tests in order to get a high school diploma in Nevada.

“I can’t think of anything more devastating in high school than to be told you’ve flunked this test,” said committee Chairman Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

Those students all have until the end of their senior year to pass the exams. No seniors awaiting graduation were affected by the mistakes in grading.

Harcourt Educational Management agreed to the fines after a meeting with the State Board of Education Monday night. State school officials and Harcourt executives told the Legislative Committee on Education on Tuesday the company brought the errors to Nevada’s attention.

Raggio pointed out similar errors in other states were reported by the school districts, not Harcourt. The company has had similar problems with testing errors in New York, Virginia, Georgia and Alaska.

Company president Dean Nafziger said Harcourt has agreed to pay $50,000 in materials costs to school districts to compensate for reporting errors before the April math test. He said the company also will discount its contract with the state by $275,000 and provide $100,000 to school districts in services to compensate.

He said school districts will be compensated for any costs from fixing the problem including notifying students who passed the test.

But Raggio asked Nafziger to go one step further, saying the company should take care of any extra costs incurred by students or their parents for tutors, summer school and other help preparing to retake those tests.

“We’ll step forward and bear that cost,” Nafziger said.

In addition, the agreement with the Board of Education sets up an independent oversight body to monitor Harcourt’s performance. Any costs will be paid for by the company.

Nafziger said the company has agreed to all those things.

“We feel tremendous regret that this type of error has taken place,” he said.

He said the company has contracts with 23 states and 15 large independent school districts for testing programs and wants to restore its reputation. He said a new position in charge of technical quality reviews has been created to fix the problem and more checks added to make sure testing and scoring are conducted accurately.

Raggio told him the problem has to be fixed. He also told state Superintendent of Education Jack McLaughlin to make sure none of the students wrongly told they had failed dropped out as a result.

“Losing even one student to a drop-out situation because of our error would be tragic,” he said.

McLaughlin said he would work with school districts to see if any students had left school as a result of the error.