Students in Mississippi may have to take a new standardized test next school year. The state Board of Education has to approved a contract with Questar Assessments of Minnesota to replace the controversial PARCC test.
The Department of Education will pay Questar nearly $13 million next year to provide testing for Mississippi's students in grade three through eight, as well as Algebra one and English two. The department will then have the option to extend the contract for another nine years at a cost of roughly $110 million.
Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says Questar had the all elements the department required for testing.
"We needed to have an assessment that was aligned to our college and career ready standards," says Wright. "We needed to make sure that we were testing the foundational skills in reading. We wanted multiple choice. We wanted constructive response. We wanted some technology enhanced. We developed the criteria of what we wanted to ensure a good testing instrument."
The Department of Education began looking for a new exam last year after a state contract review board halted a deal between the department and Pearson, the makers of the PARCC test. That decision was based on a technicality regarding the procurement process.
Concerns were also raised on the PARCC test itself. Educators, parents and lawmakers all felt the common core aligned test did not do a good enough job of evaluating students. Republican Representative John Moore of Brandon is the Chair of the House Education Committee.
"We have to have an assessment that truly measures what our schools are teaching in the standards," says Moore. "I'm just excited. I think the board has done a good job. "
Two other groups also put in bids to provide testing for Mississippi. Data Recognition Corporation was runner-up behind Questar, while Pearson came in third.