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Panel Orders Audit of Stanford 9 Testing

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From Associated Press

Lawmakers decided Tuesday to audit an error-riddled statewide testing program that is at the heart of California’s school improvement efforts.

The audit ordered by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee will focus on how well state education officials have monitored the 2-year-old program, which gives standardized tests to 4.2-million public school students.

This year’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program, also known as the Stanford 9, was plagued with problems attributed to the testing company, Harcourt Educational Measurement of San Antonio.

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Tests were delivered late to some school districts last winter, and scores were calculated incorrectly for 250,000 students fluent in English and for 44 districts with year-round schools.

The problems caused the state to delay until July 22 the release of all test scores, which by law should have been announced June 30.

Lawmakers want to examine the monitoring of test contracts by the State Board of Education and the state Department of Education “to assure we have a real definite chain of responsibility and accountability,” said Assemblyman Scott Wildman (D-Los Angeles).

Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and a former teacher, Wildman said that the audit would examine the performance of Harcourt, but that its main focus would lie elsewhere.

“This isn’t really an audit of Harcourt,” he said. “This is an audit of the state Department of Education and the State Board of Education and their implementation of the test.”

Wildman said the audit would also look at the board’s decision in 1997 to select Harcourt even though state Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin recommended another test.

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The Board of Education reduced Harcourt’s payments by 5%, or $1.1 million, on Aug. 2.

Harcourt’s mistakes “detract from the respect and integrity that are vital to the program’s public and professional stature,” state board President Robert Trigg wrote in a letter to Wildman supporting the audit.

The committee voted 10 to 0 for the audit, which will not be completed until next year.

A pending bill is aimed at fixing some of the program’s problems.

The 1997 law that created the test required the testing company to sign separate contracts with 1,100 local school districts and deliver information by June 30, a deadline that Harcourt and state officials agree was too ambitious.

The bill would instead have the state sign a single contract with the testing company and give the firm and the state more time to check the data before making them public.

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