- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has banned the use of an algebra software program by high school students taking a statewide college-readiness test.

The Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1fwuhlc ) reports Holliday announced the decision on Tuesday after officials concluded the algebra software program Zoom Math could artificially inflate scores on the ACT’s Compass test. Compass is used as a placement test for seniors who did not meet benchmarks for college-readiness on the ACT test as juniors.

The decision comes after the Department of Education reviewed the software’s impact on test scores after hearing concerns from a Northern Kentucky University math professor.

“By using Zoom Math on just the algebraic content questions and randomly guessing on other questions, a student could score high enough to become college ready in mathematics,” according to an Education Department report. “It is the Kentucky Department of Education’s professional opinion, based on the trials cited above, that a student, who is well versed in the operation of Zoom Math but is deficient in mathematics algebraic content knowledge and skills, could receive a college readiness score by using Zoom Math on the Compass test.”

Under ACT rules, students are allowed to use calculators that have had the Zoom Math software added.

ACT spokesman Edward Colby said the organization is reviewing the matter.

“We conduct ongoing research on the impact of specific calculators and calculator software on our assessment results, and our policies are determined based upon that research,” Colby said.

Tammy Herrada, the software company’s CEO, said Zoom Math started as a tool to help special education students and has never been touted as a testing aid.

“It allows students to go over the things they’ve learned in the past,” she said. “We’re not selling it to pass any ACT tests. We’re selling it to teach and benefit.”

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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