It’s been a good couple of months in the assessment market for the Educational Testing Service.
Less so, apparently, for Pearson, which in a decision announced Monday, lost out on the awarding of a cluster of lucrative Texas state testing contracts, worth roughly $280 million, to ETS.
The decision comes just weeks after Pearson lost out on another deal to ETS, in California, where state officials awarded the Lawrenceville, N.J.-based nonprofit a huge, multiyear assessment contract. That decision deeply angered Pearson, which said the process ran afoul of the law.
The Texas Education Agency said state reviewers of the bids found that ETS provided the “stronger response” for a number of key pieces of testing work. The services provided will include administering, scoring, reporting, and other performing other work associated with exams given to thousands of students across the state over the next few years.
Texas officials last year released a request for proposals to bid on six different pieces of state assessment, focused not only on the core State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, but also high school exit exams, and tests for students with disabilities and English-language-learners.
Five vendors submitted qualified proposals in response to the RFP, the state said: CTB/McGraw-Hill; Data Recognition Corp.; ETS; Measured Progress; and Pearson.
To date, Pearson has held the entire contract for Texas state testing work, worth about $450 million over five years, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
Pearson, a giant provider of testing and many other educational products and services, has been the primary contractor for Texas’ assessment work since about 1980, she said.
But the decision announced today represents a major reordering of the Lone Star state’s testing landscape.
State officials said they were issuing a notice of intent to award three of the six RFP components to ETS—including work for item and test development, administration, scoring, and reporting—to ETS for a combined $280 million over four years.
Pearson will be given the three other, smaller Texas testing contracts, worth approximately $60 million, over that same period.
“Pearson has a long, proud history of serving students, parents and educators in Texas,” said Laura Gamble, Pearson’s vice president of media and communities, in a statement about Texas’ decision. “While we are disappointed that we were not awarded all of the components of assessment services in the state, our commitment to Texas is unwavering.”
Gamble added that Pearson’s “roots in Texas run deep” and extend beyond its testing work. The company has extensive operations focused on research and development in the state, and employs 5,000 workers there, she said.
The Texas announcement comes the same month that officials in another huge market, California, awarded a big-money testing contract to ETS, a decision that angered Pearson officials.
The California deal, which was tentatively decided in March, was valued at $240 million. Pearson has claimed the process California officials used in evaluating vendors’ proposals was flawed on a number of fronts, including that Pearson was not given adequate credit for submitting the lowest-cost bid; that ETS was allowed to mimic a strategy put forward by Pearson for using teachers to score exams; and that state reviewers were improperly allowed to throw out notes they took during the proceedings.
In Texas, the state’s reviewers voiced confidence in ETS’ approach.
“ETS and Pearson both provided thorough and high-quality proposals, and both vendors demonstrated the capacity and capability to fulfill the RFP requirements,” state reviewers wrote in a memo to Texas state education commissioner Michael Williams.
But reviewers found that ETS’ proposal to handle major portions of the STAAR work “offered the most extensive access and real-time oversight of online systems by agency staff without having to rely on reports provided by the vendor,” the reviewers added. The ETS online testing system is “flexible, efficient, and user-friendly.”