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State seeking a vendor to build its new, more Common Core-aligned exams

Just four months after legislators halted their plans to adopt a test tied to the Common Core standards, state education officials are taking bids for a new test.

According to a request for proposal issued earlier this month, Tennessee education leaders want the next statewide assessment to have the ability to be given online and include open-ended questions.

Some educators have complained that the current TCAP is not the best measure of students’ learning, since the test was not actually designed according to the state’s standards in math and reading, known as the Common Core.

But, in a wave of Common Core-resistance largely born of desire for increased local control in education, the state legislature voted this spring to delay the PARCC test, an online, Common Core-aligned test with open-ended questions, and instead mandated students to take the TCAP, the state’s current assessment, for at least another year while a committee considers proposals.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test (PARCC) was funded by Race to the Top monies and designed by a group of educators across the country, including educators from Tennessee, to assess students’ learning according to the Common Core State Standards.

The state department of education issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a new assessment earlier this month, and the deadline for responses is Sept. 12. According to the request, the department of education expects to sign a contract with the new assessment-maker by Nov. 12.

The state’s department of general services denied a request by Chalkbeat for the number of companies that have indicated they will apply for the contract and the names of the members of the committee that will chose the ultimate company.

Possible contenders for the testing contract include the ACT, which already has considerable sway in Tennessee — all high schools are mandated to take the ACT — and has a line of K-12 products used by Alabama, the PARCC assessment, and the AIR Assessment program.

Testing contracts are lucrative. According to a 2013 report from the Brookings Institute, the ACT said it could create a test for as little as $20 per student, and in June, PARCC announced that its assessment would cost $24 per student. The national average for state contracted assessments is $27 per student. More than 443,500 students in grades 3-8 took the Math TCAP last year.

You can find the RFP here.

Readers, what would you like to see included in the next statewide assessment?

Correction: The original number cited a cost estimate for the PARCC assessment from 2013. The article has been updated with the most recent cost estimate. An earlier version of the article also said that the department of education denied a request from Chalkbeat for information from the RFP. It was in fact the department of general services.

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