After McGraw-Hill/CTB Backs Out, Oklahoma Looks for Testing Vendor

Managing Editor

One of the nation’s biggest testing companies has pulled the rip cord on providing a series of tests in Oklahoma, after the state’s board of education delayed approval of the company’s contract.

The decision by McGraw-Hill/CTB to withdraw from consideration means that that the state will have to put out a request for proposals for other businesses to provide tests this winter for students seeking to fulfill a series of high school graduation requirements.

In June, Oklahoma’s board of education, at the request of the state’s department of education, voted to cancel state contracts with McGraw-Hill/CTB, after its members voiced frustration with high-profile disruptions on recent state assessments overseen by the company.

But Oklahoma department of education officials worried that they would not be able to find a vendor to give a series of tests scheduled over the winter, known as end-of-instruction exams, for students attempting to meet high school graduation requirements. The window for those tests was slated to begin in November, and it was unrealistic to expect a new organization to come up with a testing platform in time for those exams. So the department asked the board of education to approve a sole-source contract with CTB worth $2.8 million to give an estimated 51,000 tests during that period.

That deal was held up, however, when the board decided Sept. 25 to table the contract. So CTB made a decision of its own.

CTB has notified the state of Oklahoma that it is withdrawing from consideration to perform any services related to the state’s winter tests,” the company said in a statement. Given the board’s decision, “there is no feasible way that CTB can meet the state’s deadlines and ensure the quality of the work we would provide the state. We wish the Oklahoma SDE success with their assessment program.”

Oklahoma has gone through a fractious public debate on standards and tests recently.

The state’s GOP-controlled legislature earlier this year approved a bill repealing the state’s earlier adoption of the common-core standards. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican. As recently as January Fallin had defended the common-core against political attacks, only to later reverse course and join critics of the standards who allege that they’ve been improperly influenced by the federal government.

Oklahoma has since decided to return to its previous state standards, which means that it will have to use tests match those exams, said Tricia Pemberton, a spokeswoman for the state department of education. (In August, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan revoked Oklahoma’s waiver of provisions from the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the state’s standards do not prepare students for college or careers.)

McGraw-Hill/ CTB has faced some recent difficulty of its own. This week, the company said it would lay off 140 employees over the next few months, as part of a reorganization of its K-12 and assessment divisions. 

The organization has 5,000 total employees, about 4,000 of whom are based in North America. In a statement on the layoffs, company officials specifically pointed to volatility in the testing industry as a factor.

This decision was made in response to a turbulent market environment for summative assessments,” the company stated, “with the delay of many business opportunities related to the common core.”

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