MDE and Pearson announce settlement for spring testing disruptions

Today the Minnesota Department of Education announced a resolution with Pearson, its testing contractor, regarding compensation for disruptions to this spring’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). As part of the agreement, Pearson will credit the department $1 million in fees and provide up to $4.69 million worth of additional services and support for districts and schools at no cost to the state.

“The disruptions experienced by students and teachers this spring were simply unacceptable,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “Pearson has been working with us in good faith to arrive at this significant settlement that provides us with assurances, and recognizes the magnitude of the impacts that the failures had on the state. This settlement also provides in-kind services that can help improve student outcomes statewide.”

This spring’s testing was complicated by complaints from districts about various issues, and several days of technical disruptions resulting from server delays and malicious, third-party “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks, intended to overload and slow Pearson’s system. The impacts led the commissioner to suspend testing on two different occasions.

As part of the agreement, Pearson will:

  • Reduce overall contract price by $1 million.
  • Provide funding to support the administration of the ACT exam and augment funding provided by the state to assure all eligible students are given the opportunity to participate.
  • Provide Pearson Perspective at no cost to the state for the duration of the contract and renewals. Perspective is an online tool that helps teachers and students improve their performance by providing supplemental resources aligned to career and college readiness academic standards.
  • Provide Write to Learn to students in eighth and 10th grades at no cost to the state for the duration of the contract and renewals. Write to Learn is an online literacy tool that teachers use in classrooms to enhance learning opportunities for students through essay writing, and other writing activities aligned to reading comprehension, and vocabulary exercises.
  • Pay for a study to determine the testing options for a new writing exam required by the 2015 Legislature.
  • Provide additional training and support to staff and districts.
  • Implement various improvements to technical support and reporting.

In order to avoid similar issues next year, Pearson will move MCA testing to their newer cloud-based testing platform, which has additional security and data controls and the capability to automatically expand network access during DDoS disruptions. This newer testing platform had 100 percent uptime during the 2014-15 school year and users had no disruptions from DDoS attacks.

“Pearson is proud to continue to work with the Minnesota Department of Education to serve students and teachers across the state, and we are pleased that we could bring a positive resolution to this issue,” said Doug Kubach, Pearson’s president of school. “We look forward to a strong working relationship and providing new services that improve educational outcomes for students.”

For more information about Pearson, visit www.pearson.com.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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