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Panel Picks Utah Contractor to Validate Florida Standards Assessment

May 30, 2015 - 11:30am

A Utah-based testing group is now responsible for reviewing the validity of Florida’s glitch-ridden Florida Standards Assessment test, chosen on Friday by a panel of three men appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Hailing from Orem, Alpine Testing Solutions and Washington, D.C.-based edCount will conduct the intensive validity test this summer, working on a time crunch to give Florida the results by the Sept. 1 deadline.

Alpine Testing didn’t seem fazed by the short timeframe. Dr. Chad Buckendahl told panel members his team of eight had already worked out schedules and promised they’d be able to complete the work in a timely manner.  

“These are dedicated staff that we have basically blocked calendars for the next three months and said: ‘This is the project,’” said Buckendahl.

Alpine Testing has done other testing work in Florida -- most recently with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

Alpine Testing will need to submit its project plan by June 19. According to the state, the vendor’s plan should be detailed enough so that the Florida Department of Education can use the plan to monitor their work.

The third-party contractor will also keep FDOE informed about “milestones” accomplished in the validity testing.

The panel was particularly concerned with the group’s ability to analyze technological malfunctions, an issue especially relevant for Florida. Earlier this year, the FSA ran into a significant roadblock when it experienced server issueswhich left thousands of students unable to complete or log into the test statewide.

Buckendahl said Alpine Testing would extensively look at what went wrong during this year’s FSA roll-out and determine whether it was just happenstance or indicative of a deeper issue within the testing system.

“From a scientific perspective, random error is something we can’t control,” he explained. “But if it’s systematic or something that there’s a pattern associated with it, that’s what potentially rises to the concern of impact.”

As part of their work, some of the researchers will head to Tallahassee to speak with FDOE staff while others will head to Washington, D.C., and others will speak with individual districts to to get a firsthand perspective on the FSA.

Completing such an expansive validity test on a highly criticized test is a daunting task for testing vendors -- the panel listed six national firms as potential candidates to complete the work, but in the end only Alpine pulled through.

With nearly 3 million students in over 4,000 public schools, Florida has one of the largest school systems in the entire country, which can prove to be a little scary for third-party contractors. The Tampa Bay Times reported some vendors thought they wouldn’t be able to complete the validity assessment in time.

Buckendahl agreed.

“The timing of getting a proposal in a week and a half or so ... that’s pretty tough this time of year,” he said.

The panel unsurprisingly selected Alpine to conduct the test. Per state law, FDOE must immediately contract with Alpine to begin the study.


Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen 

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