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Company to Give Practice Tests

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles schools have called on the Princeton Review to help students and teachers prepare for state standardized tests, under a $4.5-million, one-year contract.

The company, known for its college-entrance exam tools, will periodically assess the progress of middle school and high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, using questions developed by teachers and staff.

By testing in English, science and math before California’s annual Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, or STAR, is given in the spring, educators will get an early sense of how well their students have absorbed concepts, and what areas or teaching methods need improvement.

“Many people can use that as a predictor of their outcomes on the STAR,” said Kevin Howell, executive vice president and general manager of the Princeton Review’s K through 12 service group. The agreement was announced last week.

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Collecting ongoing data allows schools to attack a problem in a way one-time tests do not, said John Katzman, founder and chief executive of the Princeton Review. He emphasized that the assessments serve “just to inform, not to judge” teachers and students.

The review’s role is largely logistical, Howell said: printing and delivering the multiple-choice and essay tests, scanning and scoring them and making results available to educators.

L.A. Unified already had done such assessments using other companies for several years, said Bob Collins, chief instructional officer for the district. But in the past, teachers, not the companies, had scanned the tests.

“You want to be able to have, on a periodic basis, information about how well children are learning the standards,” he said.

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The data also assist teachers by indicating which students need extra help, such as Saturday school, he added.

Out of four choices, school officials settled on the Princeton Review based on price and the design of its platform, which made results easy to read and see, Collins said. It will also save teachers from thousands of hours in scoring tests, he said. Teachers will still grade the essay sections.

Assessments will take place at about 10- to 12-week intervals, Collins added. The first English-language arts tests were given July 31, he said.

The contract could be extended for two more years after an evaluation, making the total cost to the school system about $14 million, said William Tarr, coordinator of the district’s Periodic Assessment program.

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The Princeton Review provides similar services to the New York City school district, as well as others in Philadelphia, Denver, Maryland and Florida.


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