After Testing Problems, Nevada Set to Hire New Assessment Vendor
Cross-posted from the Marketplace K-12 blog
By Sean Cavanagh
The state of Nevada, plagued by online testing woes earlier this year, is poised to award its next contract to oversee a suite of state assessments to Data Recognition Corporation, for $51 million.
The state last week released a "notice of award" to issue the contract, a deal that would still have to be approved by the state's board of examiners next month, to McGraw-Hill Education CTB.
But McGraw-Hill Education CTB recently agreed to sell its summative testing operations to DRC, which means the Minnesota-based company will take over the contract. State officials told Education Week that the normal procedure is for the department of education to request a change in the assignment of the contract to the new vendor, and that was the procedure DRC was likely to follow.
Nevada's recent statewide testing has been overseen by Measured Progress, a Dover, N.H.-based assessment organization, under a contract that was scheduled to end this summer, the state's department of education said.
State officials have seethed over a series of recent breakdowns affecting online testing in Nevada.
In March, the state was forced to delay the start of its tests because the assessment system was not functioning properly and couldn't be adequately tested, Nevada officials said. When the online exams were rolled out, some students were unable to complete them, and efforts to fix the problems came up short.
Among those victimized: the Clark County school district, the country's 5th largest with 318,000 students, which had trouble restarting the tests after disruptions.
Measured Progress said after the breakdowns that at least some of the responsibility for the problems were created by another vendor, the American Institutes for Research, a Washington-based company. Measured Progress officials said that the AIR was late in delivering software vital to making sure the exams could be delivered without glitches. At the time, the AIR responded to Education Week that there were only "minimal delays" with the software, and that the company had been quick to fix problems.
The bidding for the new contract, and the proposed award to Data Recognition Corporation is not connected to those woes, said Judy Osgood, a spokeswoman for the department of education. The contract with Measured Progress was slated to end this summer, she noted—and the state issued the request for proposals before the eruption of online-testing troubles.
"They're two completely unrelated sets of events," Osgood said.
The board of examiners is scheduled to vote on the proposed award on Aug. 11. The three members of the board are Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, state Attorney General Paul Laxalt, and Nevada Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske.
DRC officials declined to comment on the pending award. But in response to a question from Education Week, the vendor said it plans to use its own online testing engine, DRC Insight, to deliver the state's exams, rather than the AIR test engine platform. (Nevada state officials and the AIR also said it was their understanding that DRC would use its own test engine.)
The state's scoresheet for ranking the bidders for the Nevada contract lists 11 vendors as having applied for the work.
CTB/McGraw-Hill had a top score of 836.88, with NCS Pearson, coming in second at 793.75. The other vendors and scores were ACT Inc.; West Ed; the College Board; Questar Assessment Inc.; Measured Progress; Public Consulting Group Inc.; EDU2000 America Inc.; Link-Systems International Inc.; and Vantage Learning LLC.
Nevada is a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of states that have created tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Vendors have scrambled to secure contracts for state assessments associated with the common core (though there was plenty of work to be had in the pre-common-core era, too). Some of those awards have been issued with federal funds through the consortia, while other deals have flowed separately, from individual states.