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AK Education Department Announces Intent
To Award Assessment Contract

February 14, 2004
Saturday - 1:10 am

The Department of Education & Early Development announced this week an "Intent to Award" a contract to a Minnesota firm to develop and administer Alaska's statewide student assessment program. The assessments covered under the contract will include tests in grades 3 through 9 plus the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.

The testing firm is Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) of Maple Grove, Minnesota. DRC has been in business since 1979 and has experience with statewide assessment programs since 1987. The company currently conducts large-scale student assessment programs for the states of Louisiana, South Carolina, Minnesota, Alabama and Ohio.

"This is great news for Alaska," said Education & Early Development Commissioner Roger Sampson. "Our new statewide assessment system contractor offers many new benefits for Alaska's students, teachers, school administrators and the State of Alaska. An added bonus is that it provides additional benefits at less cost to the state. It's a win-win situation for us all."

The six-year contract will cost the state $5 million annually. Over the life of the DRC contract, Alaska will save $12.3 million compared to the costs of the former contract.

"This new contract represents changing firms to administer our state's assessment program," Sampson said. "We are not starting over. We will still have our state student standards, all the materials developed to help teachers teach to the standards, and the rest of the standards based accountability system we have built over the past decade."

Over the past six years, Alaska was experiencing escalating costs combined with changing needs for the state's testing system because of the assessment requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

A major benefit of the new contract is that Alaska will now own the test questions, which will make changing test contractors almost seamless the next time Alaska seeks a new contractor. "The assessment market has changed considerably since we began building a statewide assessment system in 1998," Sampson said. "This time we discovered a different market that is offering more product for less money."

DRC will use two current versions of the HSGQE developed by CTB/McGraw-Hill for the fall 2004 and spring 2005 administrations of the high school exam.

The assessments will include a balance of constructed response questions -- where students write out their answers -- and multiple choice questions. All test questions will be tied directly to the Alaska content and performance standards.

"Because of the improved market in the test administration industry, our contractor is willing and able to administer the tests later in the school year and reduce the amount of time it takes for students and schools to get test results," Sampson said. "Later testing will allow more time for teachers to teach and students to learn. In short, later testing will give us a more accurate snapshot of the level of student performance."

An April test window on the HSGQE will yield student and school results by May 13. Twelfth graders who take the HSGQE in April will get results by April 25.

The new contractor will offer the following benefits:

  • Assessments in grades 3 through 9 and the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam that are criterion-referenced tests based on Alaska student standards in English, writing and math, and specifically designed for Alaska.
  • Testing window in April, maximizing instructional time within a year to teach skills outlined in the grade level expectations.
  • Alaska will own all test questions.
  • Contractor will study methods to move assessments to electronic formats so students can take the exam on computers, allowing remote testing and faster return of assessments for scoring.

A committee of seven people examined five bids January 12, 13, and 14, and reached unanimous agreement to award the contract to Data Recognition Corporation. Committee members included: Mark Lewis, contract officer for the Department of Education & Early Development (EED); Erik McCormick, EED, Data Manager; Les Morse, EED Director of Assessment and Accountability; Nick Stayrook, Executive Director, Program Planning and Evaluation for Fairbanks North-Star Borough School District; Richard Smiley, EED Education Administrator; Jack Walsh, Director of Personnel and Student Services, Kodiak Borough School District; Gary Whiteley, Assistant Superintendent, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Other bidders included Measured Progress of Dover, New Hampshire; Vantage Learning of Newtown, Pennsylvania; CTB/McGraw-Hill of Monterey, California; and Northwest Evaluation Association of Portland, Oregon. CTB/McGraw-Hill bid only on administering the high school exam.

In the coming months, the new contractor, in concert with the department, will convene committees of Alaskans, including teachers and parents, to assist in development of the new tests.

The committees include test question writing committees for each exam in reading, writing and math; content review committees; test question bias and review committees; an assessment policy committee; and a technical review committee.

The first versions of the test in grades 3-9 will be administered in the spring of 2005. The new high school exam will first be administered in the fall of 2005.

The department also will convene a committee to make recommendations on administering a national norm referenced test statewide. Norm referenced tests compare a student's performance with other students nationwide.



Fact Sheet:

Q&A About New Assesment Contract pdf


Source of News Release:

Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
Web Site


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