Kentucky's Student-Assessment Director To Leave Post

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This summer was a rough one for Kentucky's innovative student testing system. Still negotiating the fallout from a scoring mistake on the tests and the firing of the firm that ran them, the state recently learned that its longtime assessment director plans to leave by the end of the year.

Ed Reidy, a deputy education commissioner who has overseen the testing program for six years, said in an interview last month that after turning 50 this year, he began to think more seriously about leaving behind the tension and intensity of his current job.

"I agreed to come to Kentucky to get the assessment off the ground," he said. "I never intended to become the assessment guru."

He said that he wants to keep his hand in school reform, and that his departure was not related to the testing system's recent troubles.

The Kentucky Instructional Results Information System, or KIRIS, has been lauded for its use of performance assessments in which students must show what they know. It has also been controversial inside and outside the state, in part because it links schools' achievement on the tests to bonus pay for teachers.

But in June, the state fired its testing contractor, Advanced Systems in Measurement & Evaluation Inc. The Dover, N.H.-based company made a mistake that affects the scores of all of the state's elementary and middle schools on two parts of last year's test. ("Ky. Fires Firm That Ran Innovative Testing Program," July 9, 1997.)

Then, state legislators authorized a massive audit, not yet under way, of the six-year collaboration between Advanced Systems and the state education department.

Meanwhile, Mr. Reidy and others are trying to keep the assessment system on track. The announcement of spring 1997 KIRIS scores is planned for November, one month late, he said.

Group Effort

Mr. Reidy also said the state has hired, under a 10-month, $5.8 million agreement, five firms to run the KIRIS tests for spring 1998. All had been subcontractors under Advanced Systems: California Test Bureau/McGraw-Hill, based in Monterey, Calif.; WestEd, based in San Francisco; Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp.; Washington-based Humroo; and the University of Kentucky in Lexington. The state will begin looking next spring for a long-term replacement for Advanced Systems.

In a related development, three school districts have filed separate lawsuits against the state education department over the testing system. The suits by officials in Breathitt County, Carter County, and Russellville argue that the state's method for determining test scores in 1995-96 was unfair.

Lisa Y. Gross, a spokeswoman for the state education department, declined to comment on the litigation.

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