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State scrambling after Web reveals test questions

The state's expanded testing program hit a snag this week when officials realized that countless students across New York had seen three multiple-choice questions from the seventh grade math test in advance -- because the Education Department posted them on its Web site.

One of the multiple-choice questions from the eighth grade math test also was posted online a couple months ago, a state Education Department spokesman said Wednesday. The questions were among a sample set of questions intended to acquaint teachers and students with the format of the new tests.

Somehow, a few of those sample questions ended up on the tests.

"That's what we're looking into right now," said spokesman Jonathan Burman.

The Education Department was not aware of the problem until Tuesday afternoon, when an administrator from Washington-Saratoga- Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES brought it to their attention, Burman said.

Officials from a number of local districts said the state contacted them late Tuesday about the situation and urged them to do their best to keep the tests secure.

State Education Department officials have not yet decided how the problem will affect the scoring of the two tests, Burman said. Once the make-up period for the test ends March 24, officials will "provide specific guidance on how this will be accounted for in the final scoring in a way that is fair to students, schools and districts," the Education Department said in a written statement.

CTB-McGraw Hill, a private company, has an $11.4 million contract with the state Education Department to provide the math tests for grades three to eight each year through 2009.

"We're always concerned when things don't go perfectly, but we will find out what happened here and make sure it doesn't happen again," Burman said. "And we will adjust the scores accordingly."

This is the first year that students in every grade from three to eight are taking tests in math and English, as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The test results are used to determine which children need additional help to perform at grade level. The tests also are used to hold schools accountable for student performance.

Seventh- and eighth-grade pupils are taking the math test this week; next week is set aside for make-up tests for students who were not in school this week.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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