Ohio asked to examine standardized tests before hundreds of 3rd-graders are held back

AKRON, Ohio - An unusual discrepancy in test results among third graders has Akron Public Schools questioning whether hundreds of students across the state who should be promoted to fourth grade will instead be held back.

Third graders are required to take a state promotion test but they can also take one of several other nationally standardized tests to get the score they need to move on to fourth grade.

Assistant Akron Superintendent, Dr. Ellen McWilliams, says normally the scores are very close and very predictable.

"If the student takes the state test and they score a certain level you would predict that they would score the same way on 'MAP' for example or 'TerraNova.' They are basically measuring reading. Reading is reading and you would assume and predict that students would score the same way on both," said McWilliams.

But after the spring test results were released in June, McWilliams says something seemed very unusual.

"When we got the state spring test results back in June, we didn't see a tight alignment. Students who were scoring the promotion score on the state test weren't hitting the promotion score on the MAP test and that's unusual, so it raised red flags right away."

On Tuesday McWilliams, along with representatives of the Columbus School District and the creators of the NWEA MAP test, addressed members of the state school board asking that they conduct a more far-reaching study of results from districts around the state to see where the problem lies.

McWilliams says this year there are 121 students attending summer school in Akron because they failed to achieve the promotion score on their tests, whereas there are normally only 40.

She is asking the state school board to determine if the promotion score, which is determined by the creator of the test, was set too high.

"If the promotion score on MAP was set too high by the test vendor then you are going to have hundreds or thousands of additional students who could potentially be retained who shouldn't have been. And that's what we want to make sure doesn't happen,"

McWilliams says the reception from the state school board has been positive, but it may not be until late August until parents of those students at risk of being held back will know if they are, in fact, eligible to go on to the fourth grade.

"The time is tough.  It's July, so that's why we are raising this red flag quickly and asking for the state to do a study of the results across the state so we can see if this is just happening in Akron and Columbus, the two lead districts examining this, or is this a statewide issue that we need to look at options."

"Let's pause, lets study this. We have time to do that. It won't take more than a month's time to do that, so we can make sure we are retaining and promoting the right students."​