OECD Chooses Northwest Evaluation Association for Testing Contract, Platform

Associate Editor

The Northwest Evaluation Association has been chosen to develop and implement one of the tests overseen by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in a move that will broaden the U.S. testing organization’s international reach.

Specifically, the Portland, Ore.-based association is being hired to deliver an OECD exam called the Test for Schools among schools within the United States that volunteer to administer it. In addition, a testing platform that NWEA developed has been chosen for international delivery of that same exam.

The hiring of the NWEA should translate into millions of dollars in revenues as the tests are likely to be given in hundreds of schools in the U.S., and eventually to many more abroad. The NWEA, which developed the Measures of Academic Progress, an interim assessment, said in a release that it currently reaches more than 7,600 U.S. schools, districts, and education agencies in the U.S. and international schools in over 140 countries. The new deal is likely to extend that reach.

The Test for Schools will be delivered online for the first time in 2016. It is patterned after the OECD’s Program for International Assessment (PISA) test, which is given every three years to 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries and education systems. The PISA test results provide country-level benchmark data on how students are performing in math, reading, and science.

District and school leaders who choose to use the Test for Schools will give an assessment to a random sampling of 85 students to see how well they are prepared in those core subjects, measuring not just knowledge but critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The test also includes questions that gather data about student attitudes and school culture. School leaders receive a comprehensive report about their students’ performance and perceptions, data that can be compared to the results from peer schools that administer the test in the U.S. and other countries. Participating schools also are eligible to participate in the America Achieves’ Global Learning Network, which was developed to help educators and district leaders use the test results to improve school practices and student outcomes.

NWEA’s Universal Assessment Platform, which will host the test nationally and internationally, and is the technology by which the Measures of Academic Progress test and Skills Navigator tool are delivered to millions of students, can test 100,000 students concurrently, according to Kelly Goodrich, the senior director of policy and advocacy at NWEA.

“So we feel very comfortable supporting many schools” at a time, she said. When the computer-based Test for Schools is rolled out internationally in the fall of 2016, five to seven countries will be included in the pilot.

OECD has developed the Test for Schools with support from philanthropic foundations and is making it available to schools through test providers in each country, according to Tue Halgreen, an analyst for OECD and the project manager for the Test for Schools. “Our focus right now is on the implementation of the online version in the United States,” according to Halgreen in an email. Next fall, it will be possible for test providers elsewhere to use the online assesessment, delivered via NWEA’s testing platform.  “With the online version, we expect the number of participating countries and schools to grow,” Halgreen indicated.

The three-year contract, with a two-year option, was awarded to NWEA through a competitive bidding process, but no money is exchanged between OECD and NWEA. Rather, individual schools will pay $5,000 each to administer the test in the pilot year, Goodrich said. When the Test for Schools was given last in a paper-based version, almost 500 schools participated.

“This is a unique test that adds richness and insight for a school,” Goodrich said.

Previously, CTB/McGraw-Hill administered the test in the U.S. in its paper-based format. McGraw-Hill Education sold CTB, its assessment division, to Data Recognition Corp. earlier this year.

The OECD indicated that it is transitioning to online tests for three reasons: to increase the relevance and vlaue of the test for school improvement; to reduce the costs of participation, and to broaden the international coverage through one globally accessible delivery system.

Computer-based testing has been gradually introduced to PISA since the first optional electronic module, a computer-based assessment (CBA) of student skills in science which was field tested in 13 PISA countries in 2005 and the main study which was carried out in three of them—Denmark, Iceland, and Korea— in 2006. 

In 2015, PISA has been given mostly online, and ETS was responsible for developing the platform for delivery of the test. (Results for this round of testing will be released in December 2016.)

According to Beyond PISA 2015, future developments “could include further use of computer-based adaptive testing and new and innovative item formats in all assessment domains. Technological innovations may also be used to expand existing assessment domains and assess new constructs that are difficult to measure through traditional paper-based assessments.”

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