The state Education Department is dropping its provider of standardized tests, Pearson LLC and has awarded the job to a competing firm, Questar Assessment (Not to be confused with the Rensselaer County-based Questar BOCES).
Notably, announcement of the bid states that teachers will play a role in developing the questions in the new Math and English assessments given to students in Grades 3-8.
And the new tests will move toward computer-based administrations if schools want that.
This comes amid ongoing anger over the way these test results will be used in part to rate teachers under a new employee evaluation program for schools across the state. And it comes amid continued criticism over the amount of standardized tests that students are being asked to take.
New York is not the first contract Questar Assessment took from Pearson - in April, Mississippi awarded a $122 million contract to Questar to develop 3rd-8th grade state tests, replacing Pearson there as well.
I don't have much insight into this company but there are some interesting findings if you search around the Internet.
This, for example, is an "assessment" of Questar Assessment by an employee on Glassdoor.com:
Questar gives disheveled new meaning. The disconnect between departments is worse than ever, despite the assurance from top brass that we've been moving in a positive direction. Employees have been quitting left and right from Fall '14 to Summer '15.
Most departments are short-staffed and greatly overworked with little to no resolution (or mostly ineffectual resolutions) being provided by the responsible management staff. Frustration is rampant. We are told that upward mobility is quick and easy within the company, when the reality is that you will be largely left to your own devices when applying and offered little to no support from direct superiors - best of luck to you if that's your goal. They sure talk the talk with regard to this.
The benefits are quite poor in spite of a recent overhaul (even worse prior to 2015).
Procedures and certain important information is still compartmentalized amongst departments, making most collaboration supremely frustrating - Interdepartmental communication leaves much to be desired.
Short-staffed and overworked, disconnect between departments, huge turnover, gives disheveled new meaning - gee, sounds swell.
Here's how the test scorers are treated, courtesy of another reviewer at Glassdoor.com:
The people scheduling the temp scorers are not very competent. Perhaps someone needs to write them some better software? I noted that I could not possibly work in June. I then received an assignment letter with a little sticker attached saying that the assignment had been switched to June.
-Scorers are treated like kindergarteners - you sit in an assigned spot, aren't allowed to get up to go to the bathroom very often, are talked down to.
-Regular staff looks at scorers like they are cattle - barely acknowledges them.
-Scoring is surprisingly imprecise - managers weren't able to answer many of scorers' questions about how to score things and, on one occasion, really coached the scorers in how to pass the qualifying exam.
-Many scheduling glitches - tests often aren't scanned quickly enough, so that scorers are sent home early for lack of work.
Advice to ManagementI guess it stands to reason that, in a company that tries to create standardized widgets out of schoolchildren, you manage your employees as standardized entities as well. But really - could you even give some minimum acknowledgement that we're human?
Test scorers treated like cattle, imprecise scoring, managers who can't answer scorers questions, scanning glitches, incompetent schedulers - sounds even better.
Meet the new company for 3rd-8th grade testing.
Sounds a lot like the old company, doesn't it?