EDUCATION officials critical of company

Friday, May 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(OKLAHOMA CITY) - The company in charge of publishing and scoring Oklahoma's state-mandated school tests could pay a steep price for missing its deadline.

Illinois-based Riverside Publishing will be fined $600 per day, including weekends, until it delivers the tests required of students in grades three, five and eight, state Superintendent Sandy Garrett said.

The scored exams were to be delivered by May 1. Company President John E. Laramy, in a letter to Garrett, said the criterion-reference tests given to fifth- and eighth-graders should be delivered in ``mid- to late summer.'' Score reports on the third-grade Iowa Test of Basic Skills will be shipped during the week of June 25.

``Teachers won't be able to review the test results by the end of the school year and get the scores to the parents and students,'' Garrett said Thursday.

Friday is the last day of school for Oklahoma City. Many other state schools finish classes next week.

State education officials said the state, which has paid less than half the $2.1 million contract, will make no further payments until all test results have been delivered.

Tim Vansickle, vice president of custom assessments for Riverside, said the company has two different problems.

Oklahoma's third-graders took a new version of the Iowa test, but the company's new scoring system wasn't ready to meet the May 1 deadline. Laramy came to Oklahoma in late March to notify Garrett of the delay.

The criterion-referenced tests in math and reading for fifth and eighth grade, which measure how well students are meeting state-mandated objectives, are different than last year.

``This is a transition year for us since we took these tests over from a previous contractor,'' Vansickle told The Daily Oklahoman. ``The tests in question changed, and as the data came in at the end of the testing ... we realized the scores wouldn't be equivalent.''

He was in Oklahoma City this week to work with teachers on developing new cutoff standards for test scores. Students receive a score of advanced knowledge, satisfactory, limited knowledge or unsatisfactory.

State officials must approve the revised cutoff scores for each level, and then Riverside will produce the score reports, he said.

``When we send these reports, we want them to be absolutely correct. We don't want to shortchange anything,'' Vansickle said.

This is the state's first testing contract with Riverside. The delay could be a factor when the state Board of Education decides in July whether to renew the contract, Garrett said.