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Nevada AG: Vendor in breach of contract for late school test scores

For the second time in as many years, the state has found a vendor in breach of its lucrative contract to manage and score the standardized tests that thousands of public school students take every spring in Nevada.

The state attorney general’s office on Tuesday notified Data Recognition Corp. of its failure to deliver test score reports in a “timely” manner to the Nevada Department of Education.

Data Recognition is the successor firm for CTB/McGraw-Hill, an education industry heavyweight that last year outbid 11 other companies for a nearly $51.5 million contract to develop, administer, score and report the litany of standardized tests used in Nevada.

In a letter sent to Data Recognition, the attorney general’s office cited four expected delivery dates in July and August for the scores of tests that third- through 10th-graders completed earlier this year. The corporation failed delivery, the letter reads, “damaged” the education department’s mission and prevented the “crucial” delivery of test scores to schools and families prior to the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Data Recognition President and CEO Susan Engeleiter said in an emailed statement that the firm had not received the letter as of Wednesday but responded to an emailed copy from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We respectfully disagree with the complaints in the letter, and will be sending a formal response to the department,” the statement reads.

Last year, Data Recognition said they had no issue handling similar testing systems in other states.

“We haven’t had any problems in any other client states,” John Bandy, chief information officer for Data Recognition, said in August 2015, before the State Board of Examiners unanimously approved a four-year contract with the firm.

The latest testing hiccup follows what Steve Canavero, state superintendent of public instruction, described as the “wholesale meltdown” of the annual testing season in spring 2015.

At that time, Measured Progress Inc. handled testing services for the state. But as Nevada transitioned from paper tests to an online system, Measured Progress failed to fix systemic glitches that prevented more than two-thirds of students from completing the tests or even logging into the system.

The state eventually accepted $3.1 million in settlements over the botched system.

“I want to be really clear that this is an entirely different issue than last year,” Canavero said Wednesday.

His department estimated that, following Data Recognition’s replacement of Measured Progress as the state’s testing vendor, more than 270,000 students successfully completed the online assessments. But as of Wednesday, Canavero had not received an explanation from the corporation about why it still had not delivered the scores for those tests.

Data Recognition, according to the attorney general’s office, now estimates delivery of the test scores in four batches between Sept. 2 and Nov. 10. It also has two weeks to provide evidence that it has corrected the contract breaches.

Regardless, Canavero noted it’s already too late for principals and teachers who might have used the test score reports to prepare for the start of the 2016-17 school year.

“My goal now is to receive the score reports,” Canavero said.

Contact Neal Morton at nmorton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton

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