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PARCC Consortium Seeks Bids for Common-Core Testing Platform

One of the two main consortia of states developing tests aligned to the common-core standards is asking for proposals from vendors to develop an ambitious array of technology services, including a platform for delivering the assessments and a warehouse for storing reams of data.

The estimated price for that work: between $16.5 million and $17.5 million, according to the organization that issued the 112-page document, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Questions about whether the tests, which are scheduled to be given online during the 2014-15 academic year, can be delivered smoothly and at a manageable cost have emerged as one of the most pressing concerns about the overall execution of common standards and assessments among states and local officials.

That unease has grown amid a recent round of mishaps on statewide assessments in different parts of the country related to tests that were administered by commercial providers.

The request for proposal put forward by the PARCC, dubbed a "technology bundle," makes two overriding demands of prospective vendors: that they provide a platform for delivering the tests, and develop a data management and reporting system.

But within those two broad categories, vendors are also asked to provide a more comprehensive group of technology systems, including a repository for storing assessment content and engines for reporting test results and providing analytics, as well as a study on how best to produce test results.

The technology selected by PARCC will be expected to be compatiable with other systems developed and used by the consortium, said Susan Van Gundy, the associate director for assessment technology at Achieve, which is managing PARCC's work.

"This is a long-term solution for the partnership to use innovative technology to support innovative assessments," Van Gundy said in an interview.

It's possible that one vendor, or more than one—in addition to partners they choose to work with—could be awarded the final contact, Van Gundy said.

While the technology developed for the consortium will be "PARCC technology," Van Gundy said it will also be an open-source system, freely available to all users. Creating materials under open licenses was a requirement the U.S. Department of Edcuation put on consortia receiving funds through the federal Race to the Top program.

The new request for proposals is the first solicitation for bids to be issued by the nonprofit PARCC Inc., which is governed by the states, rather than through individual states' procurement processes, Van Gundy said. That step is meant to build the "long-term sustainability of the partnership" and turn over more responsibility for the consortium's operations to the nonprofit entity, she said.

Proposals are due on Oct. 9, and awards are scheduled to be made in mid-December, according to PARCC.

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