The Northwest Evaluation Association, which just last year announced plans to jump into the state summative testing market, is poised to pick up a $29 million contract in that arena in the state of Nebraska.
The state’s board of education voted to approve a five-year deal between Nebraska’s department of education and the vendor, though details of the contract are still being negotiated, a spokesman for the agency said.
State officials also have tentatively given their blessing to a pair of other deals with testing organizations.
The ACT has won a contract worth a maximum of $1.7 million to deliver a test to Nebraska 11th grade students for the 2017-18 school year, the second year the vendor has received an award for that work.
Nebraska officials also approved a separate, third deal with Data Recognition Corporation to provide alternate assessments to students with special needs and other specific demands for grades 3-8 and 11, at a value of $6.7 million over five years.
Both of those deals also have yet to be finalized, said David Jespersen, a spokesman for the department of education. Data Recognition Corporation had previously held contracts for statewide testing in grades 3-8 and 11, he said.
State officials had publicly voiced dissatisfaction with Data Recognition Corporation’s performance following testing disruptions that occurred last year.
The NWEA, based in Portland, Ore., is probably best known for its Measures of Academic Progress test, a computer-adaptive interim assessment given in districts around the country. Last summer, the organization said it would move into the more volatile area of summative testing—high-stakes exams given to students for accountability purposes.
NWEA officials have argued that their organization is well-positioned to serve states in that area, particularly because the Every Student Succeeds Act encourages new forms of assessment to measure student learning and school effectiveness.
Matt Chapman, the CEO of the Northwest Evaluation Association, told my colleague Michele Molnar last year that the summative “market potential is very, very high” and that ESSA’s passage “is a complete game-changer” from his organization’s point of view.
A spokeswoman for NWEA said the organization would decline comment on the Nebraska deal, noting that it is still under negotiation.
Jespersen said state officials considered a variety of factors in choosing NWEA, but he noted that many school districts across the state are already familiar with the vendor’s Measures of Academic Progress test.
Data Recognition Corporation, based in Minnesota, bid for the Nebraska contract that was eventually won by NWEA, as well as the alternative-assessment contract where it prevailed, said Pam Enstad, a spokeswoman for the company. The organization did not otherwise comment on NWEA winning the $29 million award.
Many states have weathered mishaps on state high-stakes tests in recent years—and many different vendors have absorbed the blame from state and district officials, as well as parents. In some cases, testing companies have been forced to reimburse states for a portion of the bill for the testing that was botched.
Overall, the market for summative tests stands at about $1.3 billion, according to an analysis we reported on last year by Emerging Strategy, a market-intelligence firm. But market for classroom-based assessment—non-mandatory testing that includes formative, interim, and “benchmark” assessments—is even bigger, reaching $1.7 billion in 2017.