Provider of flawed school test is replaced
School officials say the new provider has a solid record
The state Department of Education has selected the American Institutes for Research to replace mistake-prone Harcourt Assessment Inc. as the developer of Hawaii's standardized achievement test for public schools.
The 60-year-old AIR is one of the largest test developers in the country, school officials told a Board of Education meeting last night, and its current state clients have offered Hawaii glowing reviews of its work.
The department is terminating its five-year relationship with Harcourt to develop math, reading and science portions of the Hawaii State Assessment after problems emerged in recent years. In 2004 more than 40 errors were discovered in test materials. Last year, some tests were delivered late or to the wrong schools.
AIR clients Ohio and South Carolina, by contrast, report that AIR's work has been error-free, under budget and ahead of schedule, Department of Education officials said.
AIR's $7.3 million-per-year contract involves taking over development and administration of state math and reading tests later this year and doing the same for the science portion in 2007. The nonprofit AIR also will develop a future social studies test.
Harcourt was getting about $6 million a year for the math, reading and science tests.
The state has administered math and reading tests every spring since 2002. Under federal law, it must introduce science tests in the fall of this year, and social studies testing by fall 2008.
The tests are used to determine school-by-school compliance with federal requirements on student achievement.
Board members expressed concern that schools, which have grown accustomed to the look and feel of Harcourt tests and how to prepare students for them, will have to adjust to a new test developer at a time of extreme pressure due to the federal requirements.
Selvin Chin-Chance, the department's head of test development and administration, said AIR will maintain the same test format as Harcourt and work closely with Harcourt leading up to the changeover to ensure a "seamless transition."
The AIR contract will also include penalties for any errors.
Harcourt's contract contained similar language, which cost the company as much as $250,000, he said.
The department could not afford to remain with Harcourt, Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said.
"The whole test process was at risk," she said.
Department officials say none of Harcourt's errors significantly affected student or school scores.