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Florida testing firm AIR sells out

Cambium Learning has no plans to change the state’s spring testing system.
The screen students see when they log in to take the Florida Standards Assessments.
The screen students see when they log in to take the Florida Standards Assessments.
Published Sep. 25, 2019
Updated Sep. 25, 2019

Florida has a new state testing contractor.

AIR Assessment, the firm that created and administered the Florida Standards Assessment since 2015, has sold to online education firm Cambium Learning.

The transaction took place quietly in August, and without much fanfare in Florida. But as anti-high stakes testing activists noticed, they had some concerns.

Most importantly, they wanted to know whether the purchase would significantly impact students’ testing experience.

They remembered too vividly the problems students had logging into AIR’s new system, and other similar troubles that plagued the group’s first year working in Florida. The woes were so pronounced that the Legislature required an independent study to determine whether the results would be valid.

RELATED: Study finds flaws in Florida’s computerized testing, but state will use the results anyway

Questions quickly arose whether AIR, which eventually settled into the role, would remain largely intact, or whether Cambium would overhaul the company, potentially upsetting Florida’s system.

Some also wondered whether the state’s contract with AIR would need to be renegotiated with its buyer, and if that might allow for changes to the accountability expectations.

Dana Tofig, director of external relations for AIR, said the division would not change as a result of its sale. It will continue its testing program in Florida and 25 other states, Tofig said via email, and plans to keep its staff intact.

“AIR’s contract with [the Florida Department of Education] will be amended to reflect the change in ownership; however, the deliverables outlined in the contract and the terms of that contract remain unchanged,” he wrote. “FDOE will continue to work directly with the same AIR project team, and there will be no impact on the assessments delivered by AIR.”

Cambium will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of Florida’s statewide assessments, said FDOE spokeswoman Cheryl Etters.

Tofig added that the testing applications students have become accustomed to will not change.

“I hope that is true,” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a group that opposes high-stakes testing. “Florida students and educators don’t need any more disruptions than they have already had” in state testing.