The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, October 03, 2017 1:00 am

State picks test vendor for schools

3-year, $45 million contract drops ISTEP for ILEARN

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – State officials have chosen the American Institutes for Research as Indiana's next standardized testing vendor at a three-year cost of $45 million.

The company will create, implement and score the new ILEARN test, which is replacing ISTEP. ILEARN stands for Indiana's Learning Evaluation Readiness Network. The contract, which is still being finalized, also includes the third-grade reading test, IREAD-3.

“We are excited for what the future holds for education here in Indiana,” said Charity Flores, director of assessment for the Indiana Department of Education. “We will continue to move forward with the procurement process.”

The vendor selection was announced Monday after five companies participated.

One thing that AIR offered was a “proven item bank” – boasting the Smarter Balanced bank of questions for English Language Arts and Mathematics that has been used in more than a dozen states.

Smarter Balanced is based on Common Core standards, which Indiana abandoned in favor of its own academic curriculum.

The evaluation team, led by the Indiana Department of Administration, consisted of educators, Indiana Department of Education representatives, and several State Board of Education members.

Lawmakers repealed ISTEP after years of frustration spanning two different testing vendors – CTB/McGraw-Hill and Pearson.

ILEARN is targeted to be shorter, given in one testing window and have results returned more quickly. It will come online in the spring of 2019 and will include computer adaptive testing to better assess and inform educators about students' strengths and weaknesses.

The initial cost is $3 million for preparation. The first year the test is given the cost will be $20.6 million. The second year is $21.6 million, according to the contract proposal.

It was not the lowest cost offered during the bidding process.

The American Institutes for Research provide K-12 formative and summative assessments. Indiana's standardized test is summative – meaning it evaluates student learning at the end of a year against a standard or benchmark.

According to the company's website it delivered online tests for 19 states and had contracts with 22 states in 2015-16. During the 2016-2017 school year, AIR delivered 48 million online tests.

The other four proposals came from Data Recognition Corporation, NWEA, Pearson and Questar Assessment.

Pearson's initial two-year contract with the state was about $38 million and has been extended while a replacement was sought.

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