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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida's botched 2015 statewide assessment costs testing company $4.8M



After almost 18 months, the Florida Department of Education says it has finally resolved its settlement process with the company that botched the roll-out of Florida's new statewide standardized test in 2015.

In a statement this afternoon, the department said its withholding payments and/or getting reimbursements from American Institutes for Research worth a total of $4.8 million.

AIR was responsible for overseeing the first Florida Standards Assessments, a new statewide standardized test that debuted in spring 2015. The test administration was plagued by technical glitches and other problems that prevented some students from logging in to the exam or repeatedly interrupted their progress during it.

The state DOE at the time said the problems were caused by, first, a computer update AIR ran on the eve of rolling out the new tests, and then by a cyber attack.

"We vowed to hold AIR accountable, and most importantly, to ensure students have a positive testing experience going forward," Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a statement Friday.

State officials said that the Florida DOE "withheld payment to AIR for the 2015 administration until the company delivered a successful test administration in 2016." There were no major issues with the tests this spring.

"We are very pleased with this year’s test administration, and Florida’s students, parents and educators can have confidence in the statewide assessment system," Stewart said.

As part of the settlement over the 2015 debacle, the state DOE said it "will withhold permanently 100 percent of the amount allocated to the 2014-2015 Help Desk and 30 percent of the cost for 2014-2015 computer-based test delivery."

Additionally, AIR will reimburse the state for the full amount of a third-party review of the FSA that the 2015 Legislature ordered to assess the accuracy of the exam results. The contract for the study was worth almost $600,000.

The review's findings sparked debate, because it found the test results, as a collective, could still be used to issue school grades and evaluate teachers -- while at the same time, it advised that individual test scores might be "suspect" and shouldn't be used to determine whether students should be held back a grade or denied a high school diploma.

[Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2016 4:16pm]


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