The Indiana Department of Education will seek at least $613,600 in damages, and potentially millions of dollars more, from test adminstrator CTB/McGraw-Hill following a series of disruptions that plagued statewide assessments this spring.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz indicated that she has kept in close contact with the company since the problems occurred, but said she also believes the state deserves to be compensated for its trouble.
"The consequences of CTB's server failures were real and signficiant for Indiana schools," Ritz said in a statement. "I will work to ensure that schools are made whole while continuing to negotiate with CTB in good faith."
In late April and early May Indiana was one of a number of states that was forced to cope with widespread breakdowns in its online testing system. At the time, Indiana officials said that the explanation from CTB/McGraw-Hill—which is the name of McGraw-Hill Education's testing division—was that the company's computer servers were not able to handle the testing load.
On April 29, more than 30,000 test sessions were interrupted, Indiana officials told Education Week at the time. The state extended the testing window, but the next day the interruptions affected 8 percent of all test-takers, forcing the department of education to suspend testing temporarily. The state agency later told districts to reduce the number of tests they were to give each day.
Indiana officials described the damages they will seek from CTB/McGraw-Hill as follows: Of the $613,000 in preliminary damages sought, $400,000 will be in liquidated damages provided for in the contract between the state department of education and the company. The total amount also includes $53,600 for the department having a third-party analysis of the scores of students whose testing sessions were disrupted.
And that may not be all. State officials said that after investigating the testing breakdowns, they may seek additional money for reimbursement to Indiana schools for the costs of having to give the state test, known as the ISTEP+, during a prolonged testing window, as well as additional reimbursement to the department of education.(No word yet from Indiana officials on the court venue where they would seek damages.)
Earlier this month, Ritz announced that her department had hired the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, a nonprofit based in Dover, N.H., to review whether there was a risk that the testing problems had invalidated students' scores.
CTB/McGraw-Hill has not yet responded to requests for commment.
The company is not the first testing organization to have a state or other entities coming after them for monetary damages. In 2010, Pearson reportedly paid nearly $15 million to the state of Florida to settle a complaint over delays in reporting test results. In 2006, the Educational Testing Service created an $11 million fund to pay teachers who were given the wrong scores on licensing exams.