The Maryland Board of Public Works ultimately approved at its Sept 3 meeting a $60 million contract with NCS Pearson Inc of Iowa City, Iowa, to administer and score computerized tests for students in grades 3 through 11, assessing their understanding of subject in the Common Core, Maryland Reporter.com reports.
The Board of Public Works is made up of the governor, state treasurer, and comptroller. The vote on approval of the contract, which had only one bidder, was 2-1, with Comptroller Peter Franchot voting against approval.
“How do we know we’re getting the best price?” Maryland Reporter.com quoted him as saying. “I am stunned that are we are so casual in this bidding process.”
The news website also noted Mr Franchot’s objection to what he sees as excessive testing of public school students and the “teaching to the test” that engenders. But the fact remains that schools must comply with federal law, and one of those laws requires all public schools to administer certain tests to every students every year.
The debate about over-testing has grown, education historian Diane Ravitch says, but it is mostly irrelevant in the context of the contract. The place for that debate is in the halls of Congress, not at a BPW meeting.
The tests in question, from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, were field tested in the spring of this year. Most schools in the state are already preparing for their administration in the spring of 2015. (High schools running on semester block schedules, or 4×4 blocks, will be administering the tests this fall and in January.)
In other states, the same issues are coming up, Education Week reported.
In the past year, three states—Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina—reversed their Common Core adoptions, the magazine noted. Other states kept the Common Core standards but opted not to use tests from one of two large consortia, including Florida, Iowa, and Kansas. These states have had to revise their tests significantly, often at great expense and certainly under the gun, as spring draws near.