Pearson, N.M. Officials Given Deadline in Common-Core Testing Protest

Senior Editor

The parties at odds over a major contract to perform testing aligned with the Common Core State Standards have been given until June 18 to make their case in writing to New Mexico state officials charged with ruling on the dispute.

In a letter sent Monday, the state purchasing agent for New Mexico, Lawrence O. Maxwell, said by that date he will review the merits of a protest filed by the American Institutes for Research over a broad, common-core contract awarded to Pearson.

That contract was awarded by New Mexico officials on behalf of all states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two main consortia of states creating tests aligned with the common core and potentially worth many millions of dollars.

As Education Week reported, New Mexico state Judge Sarah M. Singleton recently ordered that the contract award be halted until the merits of the protest over the bidding process for a sweeping array of test-delivery, item-development, and other assessment work could be heard.

New Mexico state officials argued that AIR’s protest, submitted in December, was filed too late, but Singleton disagreed.

Officials with the AIR, a Washington-based testing and research organization, contended in their protest that the contract process was skewed in favor of Pearson by coupling work to be done in the first year with work to be done in subsequent years, stifling competition.

Specifically, AIR officials say the work in the contract would rely on a content/delivery platform already developed by Pearson, putting other vendors at a disadvantage.

In his letter, Maxwell said that officials at Pearson and New Mexico’s department of education, would be given the right to respond to the AIR’s protest by June 18. AIR would then have one week after that to respond to what the other two entities have to say.

There won’t be a public hearing on the case, Maxwell said. Instead, “the decision of the state purchasing agent will be based entirely on the written record.”

New Mexico state law says that once a decision is made by the state procurement agent or office, a party can appeal that decision in the courts. So the battle over the PARCC contract could be a fairly protracted one, if all the parties in play pursue all of their options.

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