Some Mississippi high school students got an unpleasant surprise when they found out they failed a portion of their exit exam because of one question, but it wasn't until well after the fact that they found out they'd actually passed it.
The problem is, the scoring was incorrect.
It happened to 126 students across the state during a four-year period from 2008 to 2011. The test in question was the online Biology I retest. It was just one question, but because of the mistake five students failed the test and were not able to graduate, 28 others failed the test but didn't graduate for other reasons and 93 failed the test but then passed it on a retest.
The Mississippi Department of Education won't comment about the testing mistake, referring questions to Pearson North America -- the testing company the state contracts with.
"Once we learned of the issue, we quickly took steps to work with the state and resolve the situation. The students have been notified of this discrepancy. They've received corrected scores and where appropriate, their diplomas," said Pearson Vice President of Media Relations Susan Aspey.
Aspey says the problem was discovered in May. Through a subcontractor, Aspey says the mistake somehow went unnoticed, costing students and now the company.
"We're committed to making things right for the 126 students impacted, and we're providing scholarships to assist them," Aspey said.
Those scholarships break down like this. For the five students who did not graduate because of the mistake, they'll each get $50,000, which is about the cost of four years at a state university.
The 28 students who failed the test because of the mistake but didn't graduate because of multiple reasons will each get $10,000.
For the remaining 93 students who passed the biology test during a retest, they'll each get $1,000.
That's $623,000 dollars that must be used for educational purposes and all of it is being paid for by the Pearson company.
"All of us at Pearson extend our sincere apologies to those students who were impacted by this issue and their families and we regret that it occurred," Aspey said.
The testing company is now working with the subcontractor to find out how the mistake happened and is putting more safeguards in place against it happening again.
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