MIAMI (AP) - Scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test have been delayed more than six weeks because the testing company hired by the state had problems administering and grading the exams, a newspaper reported Sunday.
NCS Pearson received a $254 million contract, good through November 2013, from the Florida Department of Education to administer and score the exams on paper and pilot the state's new computer-based tests.
Memos obtained by The Miami Herald from the state department of education and South Florida school districts showed that Pearson had problems throughout the testing season, including:
- A subcontractor failed to deliver testing materials to some schools.
- Some of the company's student databases weren't compatible with state databases, delaying the bulk of student scores.
- Tenth-graders had to be given the exams again on paper after a computerized version had systemwide glitches.
- Technical problems plagued testing of the state's new computerized end-of-course exams.
Pearson officials did not respond to requests for comment from the Herald on Friday or The Associated Press on Sunday.
Additionally, to save money, the state opted to have the writing tests this year graded by one person instead of two. The state delayed releasing those results to make sure they were valid.
The state's chancellor for kindergarten through 12th grade, Frances Haithcock, sent a memo late Friday to superintendents apologizing for the scoring delays. She said the test results will be reliable.
"I fully intend to take action that will ensure the contractor-related problems experienced this year are not repeated in the future," she wrote.
School administrators say the delays make it difficult to make staffing decisions for the next academic year. For students, the scores determine which classes they can take, what extra help they need and whether they can change schools.
Pearson has had problems with exams in other states, too.
The company and the College Board settled a class action lawsuit for nearly $3 million after 4,400 students were underscored on the SAT in 2006.
Pearson was blamed for delays related to test-scoring problems in Arkansas last year and South Carolina in 2008. This year, Wyoming claimed $9.5 million in damages after an online test administered statewide by Pearson was plagued with glitches.
Nearly all major testing companies have had problems since the federal No Child Left Behind law made standardized testing a national priority, said Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
"Companies over-promise and under-deliver and states, particularly in the last several years because of the fiscal crisis, take the lowest bidder who promises to do the job whether that company's track record demonstrates that they can do it," Schaeffer said.
And while standardized tests are used to hold schools, students and educators accountable, "there is absolutely no accountability for the corporations who make those tests," Schaeffer said.