Education Commissioner: FCAT Delay is Unacceptable, Will Cost Contractor
Education Commissioner Eric Smith said Tuesday that a delay in reporting FCAT test results by the state’s testing contractor is “absolutely unacceptable,” and that he intends to impose “significant financial penalties” on the company as a result of its failure to meet a deadline in its contract.
The company, NCS Pearson, last year was awarded a $254 million contract through 2013 to administer and grade the exams, along with a running a pilot program that would change over some testing to computer-based exams.
The FCAT is given to students in grades 3 through 11, with reading and math tested in most grades and science and writing tested in some of them. Passage of the FCAT in high school is required to graduate. Harcourt Assessment, acquired by Pearson in 2007, had provided similar materials related to the FCAT since 2000.
“The lack of performance by the state’s new testing contractor, NCS Pearson, is absolutely unacceptable, and the delays we have encountered in the reporting of this year’s FCAT results are not indicative of the smooth, expertly-managed experience they promised as a part of the contract procurement process,” Smith said in a statement Tuesday that followed reports of the delays over the weekend.
Memos between state education officials and South Florida school district officials reported on late last week by the Miami Herald indicated a host of technical problems were holding up the test results – which school officials say may make it hard to make some staffing decisions about next year because some grade promotions ride on the results.
The Herald reported that a subcontractor failed to deliver some testing materials to some schools, that there were problems with database compatibility between the company and the state, and that there was a system-wide glitch on a new computerized exam given to tenth graders. They had to be re-tested on paper, the Herald reported.
A spokesman for NCS Pearson didn’t respond Tuesday to a request for comment from The News Service of Florida.
Smith said that the state could impose penalties on the company.
“I am both outraged and frustrated by the situation Pearson has caused and I do not intend to allow these inexcusable delays to go unanswered,” Smith said. “In addition to demanding that Pearson ensure all future test administrations are absent of the technology issues we have experienced this year, I also intend to impose significant financial penalties as a result of their failure to meet contract deadlines.”
Pearson is a major national player in academic testing, providing tests and scoring for large districts around the country.