Minnesota-based Questar Assessment is poised to take over development of New York's grade 3-8 statewide math and English assessments, replacing Pearson, whose contract for the increasingly unpopular tests ends in December.
The state Education Department said Thursday that Questar was the winning bidder from among four companies that responded to a request for proposals. The five-year, $44 million contract also includes a provision for development of computer-based testing.
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"Our goal is to improve the assessments to make sure they provide the instructional support parents and teachers need to prepare our students for college and careers," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said.
The tests given each spring measure student performance across the state's 700 districts. They have become controversial in recent years after being tied by the state to teacher evaluations and more rigorous Common Core learning standards. The Pearson tests drew additional criticism from parents and teachers who cited poorly worded problems.
About 200,000 students sat out of April's testing in protest, more than three times the number who had opted out the year before.
"Choosing a new vendor is the responsible decision to help generate broader support for assessments than the current tests have," advocacy group High Achievement New York said in a statement.
The group also praised the promise of more teacher involvement in test development, something Tisch and newly appointed Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia stressed.
"Teachers have called for this for years," said Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers. "It is a first step along the road toward ending New York's failed testing policies. ... It says New York is going to trust its own teachers, not a corporation, to develop state tests."
Pearson, meanwhile, will continue to supply New York with learning materials and other assessments, spokeswoman Laura Howe said.
"Pearson has a long, proud history of serving students, parents and educators in New York," she said in a statement. "While we are disappointed that we were not awarded the grade 3-8 testing contract, our commitment to New York is unwavering."
The Questar contract requires approval from the attorney general and state comptroller.