CHEYENNE - A testing company will pay $5.1 million to compensate Wyoming for technical problems with the state's 2010 public school student assessment exam, state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill said Friday.
The state and NCS Pearson Inc., of Bloomington, Minn., reached an agreement this week after months of negotiations, Hill said. Gov. Matt Mead also approved the settlement, she said.
"I'm glad to know that it's resolved and we're very much focused on instruction," Hill said.
Pearson has a four-year, $40 million contract with Wyoming to design, administer and score a test to measure public school student performance in English, math, reading and science. It expires after next year's test.
Hill said Wyoming will seek bids for administering future tests and hopes to attract interest from other companies.
"We're hoping that others step forward and that we have many choices," she said. "We are not happy with Pearson."
NCS Pearson spokesman Adam Gaber said the company hopes the settlement renews a "positive and productive relationship" with the state.
The company administered the 2010 Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS, mostly on computers, but many districts reported software problems that included answers and work disappearing. In addition, teachers determined that some protractors supplied with the math portion of the test were inaccurate.
Some questioned whether the test results were reliable, although an independent study determined that students and teachers were able to work through the problems and complete the tests.
This year's test returned to pencil-and-paper format, and Hill said the 2012 test will be similar.
The 2010 test problems were a major reason why Hill defeated former Superintendent Jim McBride in last year's Republican primary election.
Under McBride, the Education Department originally had said the problems cost Wyoming about $9.5 million in damages, while Pearson had initially offered to compensate the state for $266,000 in damages.
McBride negotiated a settlement late last year with Pearson for $5.1 million, but Gov. Dave Freudenthal declined to endorse it, saying it should be left up to the new governor and superintendent to approve or renegotiate.
Hill said a key difference in the new settlement is that Pearson will pay Wyoming $2.6 million so the state can launch its own training initiative to improve reading skills. Originally, Pearson wanted to provide $2.6 million worth of professional development, she said.
In addition to the $2.6 million, Pearson will deduct $1.1 million from the contract for going back to the pencil-paper format and the company agreed to pay about $1.3 million for failing to deliver PAWS scores on time last year.
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