Education A State Capitals Roundup

Va. State Board Contract Comes Under Scrutiny

By Christina A. Samuels — November 29, 2005 1 min read

The watchdog agency for the Virginia legislature plans to examine a recent decision by the state board of education to award a $139 million contract to Pearson Educational Measurement Inc. to provide the state’s standardized tests.

According to a Nov. 14 presentation by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the nonpartisan agency will study several areas, including the contract-evaluation process and whether the finalists disclosed previous problems they had administering Virginia’s tests. Legislators have questioned why the board did not pick San Antonio-based Harcourt Assessment Inc., which offered the same services for $106 million.

Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests are administered in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades and in high school. Before awarding the contract to the Iowa City, Iowa-based Pearson, the state education department used Pearson and Harcourt to develop and administer the tests. A third firm, Questar Educational Systems of Apple Valley, Minn., developed and administered tests for students with disabilities. The department wanted to consolidate all three programs under a single contract.

The final report by the audit and review commission is due Dec. 12.