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State Group Flags Problematic Test Questions

State Group Flags Problematic Test Questions


TWIN FALLS • A state committee meets again today after flagging 19 potentially insensitive or biased standardized test questions.

The 30-member Bias and Sensitivity Committee met Tuesday and reconvenes today to filter questions that Idaho students could see this spring on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

None of the cited questions will be disclosed because they come from a national database and reviewers signed a confidentiality agreement.

“We’ll never know what the actual questions are because other states will use them,” said Brady Moore, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Education.

The committee will decide which questions the state Board of Education should review Jan. 22. The board will decide if questions should be revised or excluded.

A 2014 law required that a committee be formed to review test questions, a move to assure the public that the test has been vetted, said Mike Rush, executive director of the Board of Education.

“I think there’s a general increased concern out there about how education is being delivered to our students.”

Idaho students piloted the new tests last spring, but scores didn’t count. The state makes the official transition this spring.

The assessment, which aligns with Common Core Standards, replaces the Idaho Standards Achievement Tests.

The education board appointed the Bias and Sensitivity Committee in late November. Members from south-central Idaho are Angela Davidson, Rupert; Gary Birch, Twin Falls; Josi Christensen, Paul; Douglas Pease, Twin Falls; and Kathy Millar, Burley.

The panel and 90 more people reviewed more than 33,000 test questions last month and flagged 91 as raising concerns by at least two people, Moore said.

The committee reviewed those, and two-thirds of the members agreed 19 questions need further review.

The number likely will be whittled again after this week’s meetings.

Panel members are looking for content with stereotyping, sensitive or controversial subjects, advocating specific lifestyles, and presenting dangerous activities as appealing, say draft guidelines from the state Department of Education.

A list of controversial or “potentially distressing” subjects includes death and disease, gambling, current politics, race relations, religion, sexuality, superstition and war.

Reviewers sought examples of insensitivity toward certain groups of people or ideas, said L.T. Erickson, secondary programs director for the Twin Falls School District. He participated in the initial review.

“Really, it’s political in my mind,” he said, as test items should be consistent with Idaho values.

Erickson said he reviewed about 1,500 questions and commented on about 25. But he said his comments were largely about how the questions were written, not issues with bias.

“I think the community can rest assured (about) the test they’re taking. There are no hidden agendas there.”


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