Online Assessment

Texas Ed Agency Fines ETS $20.7 Million for Late Test Results

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is fining New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) $20.7 million for late and inconsistent delivery of results from its State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests, administered during the 2015-16 school year.

ETS was responsible for the statewide delivery and administration of the STAAR tests, but the company could not get the test results back in a timely or consistent manner, according to various news reports. That forced Education Commissioner Mike Morath to throw out the fifth and eighth grade test results from earlier this year.

Liquidated damages were assessed at $5.7 million, according to a news release, and ETS was required to invest an additional $15 million of its own funds toward an action plan that addresses problems encountered, such as online testing system enrollment, shipping, online testing, precoding, scoring and reporting. (Liquidated damages are damages agreed upon in a contract as compensation for specific breaches.)

“I believe this combination of liquidated damages with an additional financial commitment from ETS reflects the correct balance of accountability for the recent past and safeguards for the future,” Morath said in a prepared statement.

ETS has advised Morath that the company has already spent $20 million in support services to school districts and charters across the state, in order to resolve issues encountered during the 2015-16 school year. These costs — which the company will assume — are above and beyond the state contract, the Texas Education Agency said. The contract is worth $280 million over four years, according to the Texas Tribune.

A TEA spokeswoman said Wednesday that the $20.7 million in fines would be in addition to the $20 million ETS has already spent.

“ETS apologizes for the operational shortcomings during this year’s STAAR program,” said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for ETS, in a prepared statement. “Our most important goal is to deliver the high-quality program the students and educators of Texas deserve, and we will continue to improve programs and processes to achieve that objective.”

ETS currently holds the state contract for the administration of STAAR 3–8 and high school STAAR end-of-course exams. That contract was awarded in 2015, TEA said.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].