by Shun “Sean” Yao
I am deeply troubled and frustrated by the recent AIM-test debacle.
On 9/27, DJUSD administered OLSAT, an AIM/GATE test for third-graders. OLSAT contains 65 questions, is 40-minute long, and students write answers in testbooks. DJUSD gave schools incorrect instructions by handing out scan-tron answer-sheets, which are inconsistent with testbooks and should not be used. For unknown reasons, some teachers gave students the scantron sheets, while others did not. Consequently, students of 12 classes had their answers invalidated because they filled the bubbles on scantron.
On Friday 9/30 at 10pm, DJUSD sent out a letter informing parents of those 12 classes that their children’s answers were invalid.
On 10/4, DJUSD sent out another letter informing the parents of those unfortunate students that their children will be retested with COGAT, a 170-question, 3-hour long, computer-based test.
As of now, parents were not given full details of the initial test debacle, and are not informed of the significant burden COGAT imposes.
I am deeply concerned by: (1) The lack of transparency from DJUSD about what caused the initial debacle. Administering a test is a fundamental task we expect our district to perform with competency. Yes, mistakes happen; nonetheless, the public deserves to know whether the failure was caused by structure or system deficiency, and how to prevent future failures. Did DJUSD call a teacher conference before the OLSAT test? Were teachers given a chance to review the instructions? (2) That DJUSD is trying to re-test with COGAT so quickly without public deliberation. The public, not the DJUSD, should ultimately decide what remedy is in the best interest of the students. That is, whether (a) re-testing those unfortunate students without first evaluating their initial OLSAT answers, (b) using a significantly more burdensome test format (170 questions vs. 65, three hours vs. 40 minutes, computer vs. paper), and (c) only retesting students who were given incorrect instructions, is the best we can do for our children.
With the imminent election, no doubt that this incident will be politicized. Nonetheless, we as parents are more concerned about the well-being of our children than any political agenda.
Editor’s note: the Vanguard asked the district’s spokesperson, Maria Clayton to respond.
Maria Clayton, the district PIO (Public Information Officer) stated:
“The situation that resulted in OLSAT-8 testing irregularities was unfortunate but the resolution, led by the AIM office in concert with principals and teachers districtwide, was immediate, comprehensive and well-communicated to employees and parents. The district, after consultation with all 3rd grade teachers and the publisher of the OLSAT-8 determined that a retest was necessary for some classrooms. The district will administer the CogAT, a test previously approved and used for AIM-identification, to provide a testing option for any student whose scores were found to be invalid. Families with students who take the CogAT will receive results by mail at the same time as families receive OLSAT-8 results.
Updated information about the AIM-identification process is available on the AIM website www.djusd.net/aim
This winter, staff will be presenting an update to the Board of Education, including the use of the OLSAT-8, CogAT, and other assessments used for AIM-identification. That update will also review the recent dismissal by the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the complaint alleging discrimination in the AIM-identification process. It is important to note that OCR determined allegations were ‘prospective in nature’ and information presented contained ‘no information showing harm has occurred or is occurring’. The district welcomes the OCR findings dismissing the charges and is committed to continue to work to refine the process on how students are identified for the DJUSD gifted program.”