SuperTalk Mississippi

Testing mishap leads MDE to axe ten year contract with national company

The Mississippi State Board of Education voted Friday to rescind the renewal of its contract with NCS Pearson Inc., for 2017-18 and terminate the remainder of its 10-year contract.

NCS Pearson was the administrator of the U.S. History assessment, part of what goes into high school seniors’ final grade and affects students’ graduation. The error affected 951 assessments that were scored early to provide results to seniors before graduation.

Around 27,000 high school students took the spring 2017 U.S. History assessment. To date, scale scores have been reported only for the 951 seniors who needed their results to determine whether they met graduation requirements.

With many tests yet to be administered, the MDE voted to secure a one-year, emergency contract with Questar to administer the 2017-18 U.S. History assessment, as well as assessments for Biology I and 5th and 8th grade science. NCS Pearson has administered those assessments for Mississippi since 2000.

The emergency procurement is necessary to have the required tests in place for students who need to be tested in December. Questar will administer the Mississippi Assessment Program (MAP) English language arts and Mathematics assessments for grades 3-8 and high school. State law requires testing in U.S. History, and federal and state laws require Biology I and 5th and 8th grade science assessments.

“The decisions are in keeping with the Board’s duty to act in the best interest of students. Continued errors that directly impact students are unacceptable,” said Rosemary Aultman, State Board of Education chair.

The U.S. History reporting error is the third time that NCS Pearson discovered an error that impacted students in Mississippi. The first error occurred in 2012, which caused 126 students to receive failing scores. The second error took place in 2015, when online testing was interrupted for grades 5 and 8 science.

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