Damage Control Dunn Dumps on Harcourt

In a press conference I was too sleepy and lazy to call into, Supt. Dunn laid into Harcourt for failing to deliver tests on time.  See below for the press release.

They're clearly in damage control mode, which is all the more understandable since this is an election year and it hasn't exactly been a good week for Gov Blago, who -- remember? -- runs the state board. 

State School Superintendent says vendor performance on ISAT not
acceptable

Test remains valid, but delivery of materials fails to
make grade

Springfield, Ill. State Superintendent of Education
Randy Dunn today announced that Harcourt Assessment, a company that had
contracted with the Illinois State Board of Education to deliver Illinois Standards
Achievement Test materials to Illinois school districts, has failed to meet its contractual obligation with the state.

 Were here today as we begin the annual State
testing process for Illinois students, Dunn said. Unfortunately, as the process begins
this year, Illinois school districts are dealing with major difficulties in
getting their test materials due to the States testing vendor
performance. The
States testing vendor is Harcourt Assessmenta vendor selected and
approved by the old State Board of Education in 2004. In short, Harcourt has failed to deliver testing materials to Illinois
districts according to its contract with the State.

The Illinois State Board of Education is
scheduled to meet Thursday, March 16 and at that time will consider the
superintendents recommendation on cancellation of the Harcourt contract.

Harcourt will stay on long enough to complete the current
testing cycle. 

We expect them to improve their performance during
the remaining time, Dunn said.

Dunn pointed out that numerous problems
have been encountered by Illinois school districts, including test and answer
documents that were not shipped to schools in a timely manner which have
prevented some school districts from testing as scheduled. Other problems
encountered with the tests include misprints, inappropriate collation, and no
answer at a 1-800 number as well as an excessive delay in responding to telephone
ordering
 requests.

The performance of this vendor is not acceptable to
the new State Board. Let me make it clear that the Illinois State Board of
Educations diligence with this vendor has been constant, making clear
our expectations for their performance, Dunn added.

Sometimes, weve told Harcourt what it needs to
do to solve problems it created, and its attempts to solve the problem have
only made things worse, Dunn said.

ISBE lawyers are reviewing all legal aspects of this matter,
and Superintendent Dunn will recommend to the Board that its contract be
terminated for cause as quickly as possible,.  If Harcourt fails to fulfill its
duties over this testing period, the superintendent will let education
colleagues in 49 other states know of its disappointment with Harcourt.

The Harcourt contract for the ISAT test was unanimously
approved by the Illinois State Board of Education on September 2, 2004 . Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed new
board members to the Illinois State Board of Education on September 14, 2004.
Those appointments were effective September 15, 2004 and the new board
conducted its first meeting on September 20, 2004.

Superintendent Dunn was appointed as
Interim State Superintendent on September 20, 2004.

This was the first year Harcourt had been
contracted by ISBE to administer the ISAT tests.

The
ISAT measures individual student achievement relative to the Illinois Learning
Standards. The results give parents, teachers, and schools one measure of
student learning and school performance.

The stakes dont get any higher than this. Every school and every
districts measure of Adequate Yearly Progress under the
Federal No Child Left Behind Act hinges on student performance on these State
tests, Dunn said.

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