Student testing |

Student testing

by staff and wire reports

As state officials were approving an $18 million extension of a contract with a national educational testing company criticized for mistakes in grading proficiency tests, education officials were investigating another error that may call the contract into question.

Gov. Kenny Guinn, Attorney General Brian Sandoval and Secretary of State Dean Heller approved the contract extension Aug. 12 for Harcourt Measurements, four days after the discovery of an error in reporting the scores of Nevada third and fifth graders.

“I am very disappointed and concerned about this error, especially because it comes so soon to a previous scoring error that occurred a few months ago,” said Gary Waters, president of the state board.

“We must now assess if this company can do the job we hired it to do. I am asking the State Department of Education staff to take immediate action in determining the extent of the error, its impact on affected grades, schools and districts and advise on determination of penalties and cost estimates of the damages.”

Waters said the State Board of Education will discuss the issue at its Sept. 26 meeting if a special meeting is not called.

Harcourt contracts with the state Board of Education, which levied a $425,000 fine against the company that mistakenly informed 736 high school sophomores and juniors they had failed the high school proficiency math test given in April 2002.

The contract extension includes $13.2 million for developing and administering examinations in grades third through eighth and at the high school level to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Sixty percent of the money comes from the federal government and 40 percent from the state.

Another contract for up to $5.2 million is for other examinations required by the state and the federal act, all paid by the state.

State law requires the state Department of Education to contract with a nationally recognized company for the testing activities.