Some Mississippi students with severe cognitive disabilities will take a new alternative assessment this school year. The state Department of Education has contracted with Questar Assessment Incorporated to administer the test.
The state Board of Education narrowly approved a 10-year, $11.8 million contract with Minnesota-based, Questar yesterday, to conduct a federally mandated annual alternative assessment for special needs students with cognitive disabilities.
The contract with Questar was not the department's first choice. The board originally approved a contract with American Institutes for Research to provide the testing, but due to disagreement over a contractual language the department pulled out of the deal.
John Paul Beaudoin is with the education department. He says Questar was a close second choice.
"There are only a number of nationally recognized vendors," Beaudoin says. "Part of that is due to the technical sophistication necessary to build these types of assessments. They're very expensive to develop highly specialized people in the background in areas pf psychometrics and statistics and those things."
Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says it was imperative to get the contract in front of the Personal Service Contract Review Board as soon as possible.
"It used to be, we were able to get things over to them in 14 days and now they're saying they need 30 days lead time per their new rule," Wright says. "Now, we're having this meeting today. That gives a decision before the 17th of August and now we can get on their September agenda. Otherwise, we would have had to wait until October."
Earlier this year, the board also approved a 120 million dollar contract with Questar to provide the state's new Common Core aligned tests.