Home > Uncategorized > Mystery Solved: Measured Progress Wins!

Mystery Solved: Measured Progress Wins!

November 9, 2013

At Wednesday’s special meeting of the State Board of Education, the SBE selected “Company C” as Oklahoma’s new testing company for grades 3-8. One board member complained that she would’ve liked more information about the bids than the price sheet they had been given. In spite of this, members voted unanimously in favor of the SDE’s recommendation. (It’s beyond me why they didn’t go into executive session to discuss the proposals in more detail. That at least would have shown due diligence, rather than voting to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars based on what amounts to a cover sheet.)

As Andrea Eger reported this morning in the Tulsa World, the identity of the company winning the $34.45 million testing contract is no longer a mystery:

On Friday, Education Department spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton confirmed that Measured Progress had been awarded the contract.

The term is for five years, but annual renewals for each of the last four years will be required.

Other bidders were CTB/McGraw-Hill LLC, $33.94 million; Data Recognition Corporation, $51.09 million; and NCS Pearson Inc., $61.70 million.

I’ve never heard of this company, but Oklahoma has previously had contracts with the other three. Two of the proposals were close together in price. The other two were way out of range. Given the problems we had with CTB in 2013, it’s little surprise that they were not the winner. In other words, Measured Progress has no history of disappointing us. Hopefully, that’s not their only virtue.

And Pearson, you’re awfully proud of yourself there, aren’t you?

On the other hand, as Rob Miller pointed out, we have no idea what this means for field testing item tryouts this spring. Will CTB/McGraw-Hill play nicely with the new vendor and allow them to insert Common Core questions into their tests? Or will this require separate test dates? That’ll go over well. Our testing coordinators, teachers, parents, and most importantly, students, are overly fatigued with testing.

I have a long-standing interest in the inner workings of non-profit organizations. Maybe interest isn’t the best word. Maybe I should say curiosity. In the education world, there are a number of non-profits getting a ton of money for the alleged benefit of our students. College Board is a non-profit. So is ACT. There’s nothing inherently bad about that. If a group wants to make enough money to stay operational and pay staff without flipping the switch and having to pay taxes, that’s completely legal.

Of course my curiosity led to research. I went to the Measured Progress website for information, of course. Here’s how they describe themselves:

When Rich Hill and Stuart Kahl founded Measured Progress (then Advanced Systems) in 1983, they could not have predicted that their “boutique” assessment firm would one day assess more than 2.5 million students nationwide.

Measured Progress is an industry leader in the development of customized, K-12 student assessments for schools, districts, and states.

With more than 400 employees and offices in four states, the not-for-profit company remains true to its founders’ philosophy: assessments are a means, not an end. It still is all about student learning.

When I want financial information about non-profits, I go to Guide Star. Anyone can register with the site for free and look up the most recent available 990 Tax Form for any non-profit. I have a few observations based on their 2011 form.

Reporting Category 2011 Amount
Revenue $103,736,850
Salaries $47,260,982
Other Expenses $62,315,459
Loss for 2011 $5,839,591
Beginning of Year Assets on Hand $30,331,660
End of Year Assets on Hand $24,492,069

Let me give the new kids some friendly advice: since you have some cash on hand, buy some servers. Buy a lot of them. Invest in your infrastructure. If you want this to go well, don’t screw up on test day.

Unlike Superintendent Barresi, I don’t mind them having so much cash on hand. They’re obviously growing their brand, and you have to have a reservoir of cash in order to do so. I also don’t have a huge problem with the company leader making in excess of $300,000 per year. Again, leaders of large organizations have complicated levels of responsibilities.

Executive Position Total Compensation
Martin Borg President $318,247
Stuart Kahl Chief Executive Officer $329,400
Richard Swartz Senior Vice-President $265,161
Lisa Erlich Chief Operating Officer $223,514
Thomas Squeo Chief Information Officer $229,713
Richard Dobbs Senior Vice-President $224,590
Michael Russell Senior Vice-President $271,084
Robert Mohundro Senior Technical Strategist $227,717
Thomas Hoffman Senior Development Leader $245,326
Jason Sutch Vice President $216,689

I’m not sure I feel great about their top ten employees all making more than $200,000 per year. Barresi is complaining that in Oklahoma, the average superintendent makes three times what the average teacher makes. I know no school district – even those with similar levels of revenue – have ten employees making this much money. None would even have two. But again, Measured Progress is a non-profit. They’re not a public entity, even if that’s where they make their money.

And they are definitely making money. As this five-year trend shows, company revenue is rising steeply.

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

$89,547,411

$87,536,526 $97,486,239 $96,057,149

$104,057,149

Finally, I wanted to see what I could find out about Measured Progress on the web. I didn’t find much. They utilize a lot of temporary labor, but that makes sense. Much of their work is seasonal in nature. I can’t really find any testimonials, but I can’t find evidence of multi-state system failures either.

All that said, welcome to Oklahoma, Measured Progress. Let’s hope it goes well.

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  1. Rob R
    November 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for a thorough evaluation. At least.. as thorough as one could expect without knowing the details of the agreement with the State of Oklahoma.

    I also appreciate throwing a little light on the big testing dollars flowing around the USA these days.

    Like

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