Official: Using private vendor for test could be costly

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jan. 6, 2016 at 1:01 p.m.



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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Using a private vendor for Kansas' standardized tests as a legislative panel is recommending would boost costs, according to a state education official.

For more than 30 years, the University of Kansas' Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation has written and administered the state's tests in math, reading and other subjects.

But the interim legislative panel says the "the wisdom of continued funding" of Kansas' state testing contract with the university should be reconsidered. The panel is calling in its draft recommendations for the state to seek a test provider without ties to federal or state government and that it pay for all students to take the ACT, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1RsF9R3 ) reports.

Deputy education commissioner Brad Neuenswander said Tuesday that schools would appreciate the state paying for high-schoolers to take the ACT, because it would ensure no student who wants to take the college entrance exam is prevented by poverty. Some school districts, including Kansas City, Kansas, already foot the bill for students to take the ACT in high school.

But Neuenswander said if legislators want to throw out KU's tests and make the ACT college entrance exam and related ACT tests for younger students Kansas' official state tests, this would cost "much more" than the university charges.

The Kansas State Department of Education says the state has the second-cheapest state tests in the nation, with a price tag of about $6 for one student taking one test. The average nationwide is about $30 per test, the department said.

The most recent year's contract with KU was worth $5.8 million. Neuenswander said the cost should decrease because the current contract included costs related to a recent, major redesign of some of the tests.

Kansas hasn't sought a formal cost bid from ACT Inc. The department most recently produced an estimate for adopting ACT tests in December 2013. The estimated cost was between $4.2 million and $4.5 million to rely on ACT Inc. for math, reading, science and writing tests. But the state would need another vendor for its other tests, including history/government, tests for gauging the English language progress of non-native speakers and tests for students with severe learning disabilities. Kansas' contract with KU currently includes all of these tests.

Relying on ACT Inc. for some of the tests and KU for the rest would cost upwards of $6.2 million, according to the 2013 estimate. If legislators want to avoid the university completely in favor of exclusively non-public test developers, Neuenswander said he expects the price would be higher.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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The Associated Press

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