SCHOOL NEWS

Texas will rebid state testing contracts

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After a series of glitches disrupted tens of thousands of students’ STAAR tests this school year, the Texas Education Agency has announced that it will seek new vendor bids for its educational testing programs. 

Current assessment services vendors include the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which provides the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), and Pearson, which provides STAAR Alternate 2 and Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System. 

Glitches in the online STAAR assessment disrupted around 71,000 students testing in April and again in May due to connectivity issues. The Texas Education Commission (TEA) has notified ETS, the company responsible for the statewide delivery and administration of STAAR, that the agency will be assessing liquidated damages in the amount of $100,000 to address the two events. 

In 2016, about 14,200 students had answers erased and districts across Texas experienced a variety of issues including shipping problems, grading errors and even tests questions with no correct answer. ETS ended up paying the state $5.7 million for those problems and said then it planned to spend $15 million on improvements. 

TEA officials said that the during the rebidding process, any new contract will require greater enhancements and safeguards and will be designed to ensure the agency can offer teachers and students an innovative and comprehensive instructional system. 

Students in grades 5 and 8 directly affected by April or May online testing issues, and who did not perform satisfactorily on the May assessment, will not be required to retest in June, according to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. 

For the 2017-2018 school year, Morath is waiving the requirement for grade placement committees based on results from affected subject tests. Instead, districts will be allowed to use local discretion and all relevant and available academic information (such as the recommendation of the teacher and the student's grade in each subject) to make appropriate promotion/retention decisions for these students.

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