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State Journal: Testy situation; Chief critics

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Testy situation

Kentucky officials have found themselves defending the state's pioneering student performance assessments yet again.

In a move that raised eyebrows among critics of the testing program, Neal Kingston, who was an associate education commissioner for two years, will soon join the company that develops the tests. He will be a vice president of Advanced Systems in Measurement and Evaluation, the third-highest-ranking executive at the Dover, N.H.-based company.

Kentucky officials say they began taking steps to head off conflict-of-interest allegations nearly a year ago, when they learned Mr. Kingston was planning to leave the state education department. Officials realized Mr. Kingston, as a psychometrician, might well join a company involved with the state testing system, which at the time was up for bids.

Jim Parks, a spokesman for the department, said Mr. Kingston had no role in drafting the request for proposals on the new test and had left in December, before bids were opened. Advanced Systems won the $8 million-a-year, four-year contract.

Mr. Kingston has abided by the state's requirement that former employees wait six months before taking jobs with state contractors. He starts his new job in June. Company officials said he will have no direct responsibility for the Kentucky tests.

Chief critics

Linda Schrenko's critics lined up this month to air their grievances about the Georgia state schools chief at a meeting of the state board of education.

Testifying on plans to reorganize the state education agency, officials from some state school groups charged that the department was mismanaged and often disloyal to public education.

Critics noted memos written by the elected, Republican chief, made public this spring, in which she told aides she did not want to meet with several state education groups seeking to shape policy.

Ms. Schrenko has apologized for those memos, and she told the board that she always considers educators' views.

Some who attended the meeting said they hope that giving critics their say may help the Democrat-led board and Ms. Schrenko settle their differences, which have left many wondering who is running the state education system.

"We're ready, willing, and able, but we're still waiting for leadership," said Tim Callagansic, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group of 37,000 teachers and administrators.

--Lonnie Harp
& Drew Lindsay

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