With new contract, state starts process of creating new standardized test for spring

The Louisiana Department of Education is poised to sign a new one-year contract with its long-time testing vendor to create the state’s spring standardized assessments.

Data Recognition Corp. has produced Louisiana’s standardized tests since 1999. But that contract, after multiple extensions, expired June 30.

Documents released in advance of next week’s state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting show the state intends to award a $3.1 million contract to the Minnesota-based company with a back-dated start of  Oct. 5.

The department is in the throes of double-checking student scores from this past spring, seeking a BESE vote that would ensure Louisiana scores are comparable to other states, and preparing data at the state, district, and student levels. The state outlined the two month timeline in a release last month.

Despite the fact that Louisiana left the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, State Superintendent John White said students in the state took the exact test as students in the other 10 PARCC states. PARCC is a multi-state consortium seeking to align tests to Common Core standards and allow for test comparison across state lines.

Other states also are going through the process of setting their standards, a task that comes with a new test. It’s caused a delay in the release of data, including school performance scores, which are the familiar letter grades issued to schools. In Louisiana, it was all for an exam that will only be given once.

Reflecting a compromise between Gov. Bobby Jindal, who now opposes Common Core standards, and state Superintendent John White, state law now stipulates that no more than 49.9 percent of the state test may be made up of PARCC-generated questions, but the scores still must be comparable to results from other states.

Under the new contract, DRC will have to create a new test — or at least half of one.

Three companies submitted proposals for the assessment contract, including Pearson, the testing giant and vendor for PARCC. Measured Progress, based in New Hampshire, also submitted a proposal. The Department of Education didn’t immediately provide the proposals to The Lens, which asked for them under the public-records law.

White said some of the same standard setting may be necessary again next year. But some of the questions should be able to be reused.

“We will be seeking to claim comparability,” White said of next year’s exams.

The first state-level look is expected to be released Oct. 12. And a release of scores by the five designated levels is due out Oct. 19. School performance scores are anticipated in December.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.