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Report Clears Test Contractor, Ky. Ed. Dept.

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Despite the longstanding worries of Kentucky legislators and residents, an independent report has found that the state did not pay for more than it got from its former student-testing contractor.

The Coopers & Lybrand report, commissioned by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission and released last week, reviews the relationship between the Kentucky education department and its former contractor, Advanced Systems in Measurement and Evaluation Inc., based in Dover, N.H. The company was fired last July after a data processing error affected scores on the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System, or KIRIS. ("Ky. Fires Firm That Ran Innovative Testing Program," July 9, 1997.)

The study found that while state money was not improperly spent on the contract for the performance-based assessment system, certain managerial and accounting practices were less than ideal.

Closer involvement by the state's finance and administration agency would have helped by providing "an additional level of oversight," the report says. The study also says a contract that reimbursed costs as they occurred would have been preferable to the fixed-price deal Kentucky had with Advanced Systems.

For Kentucky's Senate majority leader, David K. Karem, the report confirms some legislators' beliefs about a sloppy contract but dispels concerns about serious impropriety. "Hopefully, the department of education will be far more careful in the future," the Democratic lawmaker said.

The department will address any problems the audit turned up, said Lisa Y. Gross, a spokeswoman.

Stuart Kahl, the president of Advanced Systems, argued that the contract was not sloppy, but gave his company and the state department the flexibility they needed for a cutting-edge assessment.

--MILLICENT LAWTON

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