Plummeting test scores have been a widespread concern this year, but at least two area districts had more to worry about after the results were mailed out.
The Voorheesville and Bethlehem school districts recently mailed out results of test scores in state math and English language arts exams, but addressed those results to students instead of parents.
Both districts contracted with Northeast Regional Information Center (NERIC), a BOCES-based service provider, to mail state exam scores. The printing vendor NERIC contracted with, EDGE Document Solutions, did not notice the error before scores were mailed.
The Guilderland Central School District mails student exam scores in-house, so it did not have the same error.
Voorheesville Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said a district administrator, who also has a student in the district, noticed the error upon receiving her child’s score.
Voorheesville contacted NERIC about the issue, who then had EDGE determine if the error affected the entire district. The printing vendor determined all district letters were affected.
“They took full responsibility and said they were really sorry,” Snyder said. “They have been very reliable in the past … it happens to be the most highly sensitive test they made the mistake on.”
New York State United Teachers officials, along with some parents and school leaders, have expressed concerns about how significantly declining test scores might affect students. Snyder said having parents act as a “buffer” was more important than ever with many students seeing scores dropping.
Snyder, in her most recent “Superintendent’s Page” post on the district’s website, said she has received “numerous phone calls and emails” from parents concerned about declining scores.
“Children who received high scores in previous years and who carry high academic averages, this year fell below the benchmark contrived to indicate proficiency,” Snyder wrote. “Their parents are surprised, but the children are distraught. I have received messages indicating that some children burst into tears and declared themselves dumb. I have heard from parents who are expressing disdain of a system that would inflict such nonsensical messages on school children.”
Snyder said as of Friday, Oct. 18, she had not heard of any student opening their test score results letter without a parent present.
The Bethlehem Central School District appeared to notify parents and guardians of the error before test scores were received with a statement released Wednesday, Oct. 2.
“We are awaiting a detailed explanation from the vendor in question as to how such a serious error could occur, but wanted to alert you as soon as possible so you can address this issue at home, as you see fit,” the announcement read. “We apologize for this unexpected turn of events and hope this error does not cause any undue concern for our students.”
Sabre Sarnataro, spokeswoman for BC schools, said the district did not appear to have received any complaints about students opening the letter without a parent.
Voorheesville released the letter Brian Hussey, Jr., account executive for EDGE, sent the district apologizing for the error.
Hussey said EDGE developers and the production team reviewed the issue and determined the company “inadvertently overwrote” the phrase addressing letters to the parents or guardians with the Intelligent Mail Barcode.
“As in years past, all live work went through a final review and start up process to verify everything was in order,” Hussey said. “With the changes to the layout of ELA and math parent reports this year, the emphasis was placed on verifying that the program(s) were pulling and merging all applicable data correctly. While this was performed as prescribed, the verification of the verbiage that should have appeared on the cover letter was overlooked in our facility during testing phase.”
In the letter, Hussey wrote he could “appreciate a parent’s confusion and concern” over the letter being directly addressed to the child.
“The EDGE organization takes pride in delivering a quality product and apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused,” he said.