Saturday, February 12, 2011

Education Reform Like a Business: Funny Business Maybe?

NCR Pearson is the company that scores the FCAT results. When they bid for renewal of their contract, they underbid their competitor by $300 million, and won the $245 million dollar contract. Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well for Florida or for Pearson in 2010. In fact, things didn't work out so well in Wyoming, Minnesota, or Virginia either in returning results on time and generating some irregularities in scoring. Pearson paid Florida a fine of $15 million for the delay due to the "extraordinary difficulties in matching test results to each child's demographic information." They apologized saying that they had "underestimated the complexity of the work called for in the FCAT contract." Superintendents around the State challenged the results since their testing departments found drops in scores unusual. The State conducted two audits. The first was conducted by a company that was a sub-contractor to Pearson. The State then contracted a firm without any connection to Pearson, which found that the data was historically consistent with fluctuations in the past. Commissioner Smith then gave the FCAT results a "clean bill of health." What will this year bring?

Unsatisfied with the outcome, Alachua County school Superintendent Dan Boyd said all he can do is accept what the state's education commissioner has said regarding the audits.

"But there has been great consternation around the state with this, and we noticed some things we were concerned about with the scores, too," Boyd said.

There was particular concern when comparing student learning gains on this year's test with those of the prior year, especially for the lowest-performing students.

"And in looking at those scores, that was the problem with Pearson initially in matching those scores. So if they could not match them, how could they give us accurate results?" Boyd asked.

This year, Boyd is serving on a state-level FCAT review committee.

Florida has decided to develop end-of-course tests. Pearson was selected to develop these tests.

What business model is this? SIB to Captain Eagle, come in Captain, over......,0,4407916.story

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