Pearson Awarded Vendor Status For Delaware Social Studies State Assessment

Pearson has officially entered the world of Delaware standardized tests.  On November 10th, NCS Pearson officially signed a contract with the Delaware Department of Education for a five-year contract worth $6 million to create and deliver the Social Studies state assessment.  This contract will expire on December 31st, 2021.  You won’t find any official news release from the Delaware DOE on this.  I imagine many history teachers across the state will not be too happy to see this news.  The Delaware DOE has used Pearson in the past as a vendor, but never for an official state assessment.  With American Institutes for Research as the Smarter Balanced Assessment vendor for English Language Arts and Math, along with WestEd as the recent awarded vendor for Science, Pearson joins the Delaware state assessment crew.

The Social Studies state assessment will be given to students in 4th, 7th, and presumably 10th grade.  This would follow the former Social Studies DCAS testing delivery method.  Upon reading the contract, it looks like the field tests would begin next year with full implementation in those grades by the 2018-2019 school year.

I was not able to determine whether this test will be a once a year test or a “stealth test” based on the below contract.  Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky did mention the possibility of this assessment being a “stealth test”.  Those kind of tests are delivered throughout the year in competency-based education environments.  Until a student is considered to “master” the content, they do not move on until they do.

There has been recent talk in Delaware concerning the future of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sources have indicated newly elected Governor John Carney may want to move away from the Smarter Balanced standardized test and may want to engage NWEA for the assessment provider for ELA and Math.  But no matter who the vendor is or what kind of test it is, it would still be based on the Common Core State Standards.  The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the flexibility to choose their own standards for education, but the Delaware DOE already decided (without any input from stakeholders whatsoever) that Common Core is the way to go.

Pearson beat out American Institutes for Research, Measured Progress Inc., and Strategic Measurement and Evaluation, Inc. to win this contract.

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The Bidders For The Delaware Social Studies And Science State Assessments

The Delaware Dept. of Education put out a request for proposal for their Social Studies and Science state assessments.  For Social Studies, the bidding ended on 9/9 and for Science, 9/23.  This is the second time the Delaware DOE put out requests for these two tests and some of the same companies bid again.  I went into detail about some of those companies last December.  The last time both the state assessments were included in one big lump.  This time, they separated them.  I had a lot to say about the Social Studies request for proposal last month and how this could lead to embedded stealth testing in a constant online competency-based personalized learning environment.

Delaware System of Student Assessment in Social Studies

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Next Generation Science Assessment for Delaware Learners

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The new bidders for these assessments are Measured Progress Inc. and WestEd.  Measured Progress is just more of the same according to Save Maine Schools.  They were the Smarter Balanced vendor in three states last year, but they couldn’t even handle the data capacity and had to shut down testing.  WestEd, though, is no stranger to Delaware.  This is a company that thinks online digital learning games with Curious George are just great for preschool.  They also have an extensive list of clients with some very familiar names.  Ironically, the Delaware DOE hired facilitators from WestEd for their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, along with Research In Action.  They even went into a partnership recently with NewSchools Venture Fund to expand small business data technology companies in K-12 classrooms.  How ironic that they received grant money from the Small Business Administration to fund ed tech start-ups while they are bidding for contracts that would measure the effectiveness of ed tech instruction with state assessments.  No conflict of interest there!  Strategic Measurement still has the same website as last year.  Both AIR and Pearson are still the lead players in the high-stakes testing arena.  None of these bidders signal Delaware ending the high-stakes testing arena any time soon.

So Who Bid On The Social Studies And Science State Assessments In Delaware?

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The Delaware DOE is getting ready to pick a vendor for their high-stakes rigorous grit-worthy state assessments for Science and Social Studies.  Some of these were the companies I expected to see and some I never heard of before in my life!  This is the world of corporate education reform.  Every time you think you have a good handle of what companies are out there, a few more rise to the surface.  All bids were due to the Delaware Department of Education by November 30th.  The DOE is giving an estimated date of 12/18 for the recipient of the contract to be announced.

So let’s start with the obvious suspects: American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pearson.  AIR is the vendor of choice for the DOE on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They were also the vendor for DCAS.  They also implemented state assessments in Florida and Utah that did not go over well with the public.  Pearson, the father of the PARCC assessment, is taking a huge hit after their bungled test.

Strategic Measurement & Evaluation Inc. comes from Lafayette, IN.  Coincidentally, they have as one of their clients the Indiana Department of Education, along with the Michigan counterpart.  But what is really fascinating is the testimonial section of their website.  There are only two names on there.  One is John King, the upcoming US Secretary of Education.  It turns out he used this company when he ran schools in New York City.  Another woman worked in NYC around the same time.  She was the Vice-President of School Supports for the NYC Charter School Center.  We in Delaware know this woman by her current title, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Education Building in Wilmington, none other than Aretha Miller.  Yes, I noticed their website address is “escoreny” as well.  Turns out they have a revamped website coming soon called “smeasurement.com”.

The other company, MetriTech is something of a mystery.  Not for the obvious reason.  If you go to their website, you better bring a magnifying glass or zoom to 150% or greater.  Not that I’m impressed with any of these companies, but at least have a good website!  Their list of clients includes Chicago Public schools and a couple state DOEs, but in looking at their product, it seems geared towards ELL students.  But they are based out of Champaign, IL.  So maybe they have some political connections or something.

So who will win the big contract?  If I had to guess, I would go with Strategic Measurement and Evaluation.  Pearson and AIR are becoming toxic names associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC.  MetriTech looks like they need financing to get a good website going.  But then again, SME has an old website.  Who knows!  I’m sure whoever it is, kids will hate it, teachers will prep students for it, and parents will want to opt their kids out of it!

 

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Science & Social Studies State Assessments Up For Bids By Delaware DOE For 5 1/2 Year Contract With No General Assembly Legislation

The Delaware DOE wants to remove the DCAS Social Studies and Science State Standardized Assessments and have new ones implemented by the 2016-2017 school year.  They currently have a Request for Proposal (RFP) with final bids due by 11/30/15.  You have to love this part of the bid proposal:

The initial term of the resulting Contract(s) will be from the Contract’s effective date, on or about December 31, 2015, through June 30, 2021. The DDOE reserves the right to extend any contract awarded as a result of this Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) for as many as five additional annual contracts if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the State of Delaware.

I imagine these new tests will be “more aligned with the Common Core State Standards” and the RFP already states these tests will be a part of the Delaware School Success Framework.  So where does the DOE have the authority to do this?  And where is the oversight?  Look no further than this part of the proposal:

Funding for Contract(s) resulting from this Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) is contingent upon approval by the Delaware General Assembly each year of appropriations, limitations, or other expenditure authority.

The DOE estimates the “winner” will be announced around 12/18/15 with a start date of 12/31/15.  While this bid proposal was created on 9/29/15, note at the bottom of page 2 and page 3 what the accountability measures are for proficiency.  Yes, the old participation rate multiplier is in full effect on here even though the Accountability Framework Working Group voted against it and the State Board has yet to make a decision on this.  Couldn’t that affect the bid process somewhat?

And what is the DOE requiring for these tests from a vendor?

require students to demonstrate a range of higher-order, analytical thinking and performance skills in reading, writing, and research based on the depth and complexity of Delaware Social Studies Standards, Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies (grades 6-10 only) and/or Next Generation Science Standards allowing robust information to be gathered for students with varied levels of achievement. A significant portion of total score points come from items that demonstrate a deeper level of knowledge (e.g., represent the high complexity levels designated by taxonomies of cognitive demand).

And which students will be taking these tests?  Currently the DCAS Science assessments are for grades 5,8, and 10 and the DCAS Social Studies is grades 4th and 7th with a High School End of Course for U.S. History.  By the 2019-2020 school year, these tests will be for all students from 3rd through 10th grade, in both Science and Social Studies.

Now if the 147th General Assembly had to approve the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the State Standardized Assessment and the bids for this are due while the General Assembly is out of session (like they did with Smarter Balanced), is this even allowed?  Some legislators in the 147th General Assembly stated they voted yes for the Smarter Balanced legislation (House Bill 334) because Mark Murphy and the DOE already bought it.  Can the 148th General Assembly prevent the very same mistake from happening again before a contract is signed and sealed?  Especially when the plan is to have even more students taking these assessments?

To read the whole contract, see below:

Updated: I read through the text of House Bill 334, which allowed the Smarter Balanced invasion in Delaware (even though  the DOE already signed a contract with American Institutes for Research to be the test vendor and joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium).  For Science and Social Studies, House Bill 334 states the following:

(c) The assessments referred to in subsection (b) of this section shall measure achievement in readingEnglish language arts and mathematics for students in a minimum of grades 3 through 8 and high school, provided additional grades may be added by the Department. Science and social studies shall be assessed for students at least once in the elementary grades, at least once in the middle grades, and at least once in high school.

It looks like the DOE is taking the “at least once” and running with it.