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Wireless Generation Wins Contract for Common Assessments

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As the two consortia developing assessments around the Common Core State Standards move closer to the tests' adoption, for the 2014-15 school year, they are starting to award contracts that will shape how the assessments look and operate. On Wednesday, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium announced that the software used to report and analyze results from its assessments will be developed by Wireless Generation, the education software company.

Wireless Generation will partner with Educational Testing Service (ETS) on the contract. The terms of the contract were not disclosed, but the Request for Proposal stipulated the project could not exceed $4.9 million. Smarter Balanced's projects are funded through a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The reporting system will be used for the common assessments students will take in Smarter Balanced's 25 member states (you can view those states in the map below). The system will collect data from interim and summative assessments given to students and also track their progress toward college and career readiness, as determined by the individual standards. The data will be available to administrators and teachers as well as parents, according to a news release from Smarter Balanced. Schoolwide and districtwide reports will also be available.

The entire system will be open source, which means other computer programmers can build applications using the software's source code. For instance, Moodle is an open source learning management platform that is used as the framework for companies like Moodlerooms.

Early next year, the public will have a chance to provide input on the system requirements. You can read the Request for Proposal here, and Wireless Generation's winning proposal here, if you're into that sort of thing.

Some important notes regarding Wireless Generation. News Corporation, the international media conglomerate implicated in a widespread phone hacking scandal last year, owns 90 percent of Wireless Generation, which is part of the company's new Amplify education business. Since the acquisition, for $360 million in November 2010, concerns over possible connections between Wireless Generation's data operations and its parent company have arose. In response, Wireless Generation has pointed out that its data operations are independent from News Corp. and the company has always complied with the many laws governing student data, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In August 2011, the company did lose a $27 million contract to develop assessment tracking software for New York state education department because of the scandal embroiling News Corp.'s newspaper division.

(Larry Berger, a co-founder and executive chairman of Wireless Generation, serves on the board of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.)

In somewhat related news, the Brown Center on Education Policy, at the Brookings Institution, released a report Wednesday on the cost of state assessments around the country, including a recommendation for states to join testing consortia in order to lower costs. Read more about it here.

Common Standards and Assessment Consortia Membership
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