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Help Wanted

February 16, 2014 Comments off

In case you haven’t heard, the SDE’s assistant superintendent for accountability and assessments will vacate her position March 14. Although the testing program has not run all that smoothly under Maridyth McBee’s watch, the timing of this change is a concern for those in school districts who manage testing, which starts on April 10. Two pieces of news should be of tremendous comfort, however.

First is that the SDE has a seasoned veteran of testing at the ready to serve in an interim capacity. From the Tulsa World:

[SDE Director of Communications Phil] Bacharach said Wes Bruce, a nationally recognized consultant in the field who has been working with the department since before McBee’s decision, agreed to expand his role in assessments in the interim.

“We do anticipate a smooth transition,” he said. A national search is already underway for her successor. and Bacharach said there are some strong candidates in the field.

Bruce is the former chief assessment officer for the Indiana Department of Education under former Superintendent Tony Bennett, who lost the election in 2012 for another term.

Bennett then became Florida’s education commissioner. He resigned less than eight months later amid accusations that he changed the state’s A-F grading formula to raise the grade of a charter school backed by influential Republican donors. Bruce retired last fall under Bennett’s successor, Glenda Ritz.

Let’s recap the connections here. Bennett is one of Barresi’s closest political allies. What she and her supporters (to the extent that they exist apart from her own checkbook) don’t copy from Florida, they copy from Indiana. Faced with a testing debacle nearly identical to Oklahoma’s at the exact same time, Ritz – an actual educator – held the testing company accountable in a meaningful way.

What led the SDE to decide we needed Bruce on our payroll is unclear. But it’s a good thing he saw fit to pack up and leave his home and put his skills to work for another state.

Bacharach said Bruce does not live in Oklahoma. “But under terms of his agreement with SDE, he is here for a number of days each month and is in routine contact via Skype, email, etc.,” he said.

It is unclear whether that will continue under his interim leadership.

Well that’s different. This guy is phoning  Skyping it in. But he has close ties to PARCC, which helps because…oh wait, it’s not. We pulled out of PARCC.

Still, this is only temporary. Bacharach also said a national search is already underway for McBee’s permanent replacement. By already underway, of course, they mean on back channels. Currently, no job posting appears on the Careers at SDE page.

Maybe they’re trying to find the right words to use in the job description. If that’s the case, allow me to help. That is what I’m known for, after all.

Assistant State Superintendent for Accountability and Assessments

General description

Under general supervision from the State Board of Education (SBE) and with diligent collaboration with Oklahoma school district personnel, effectively lead the state testing program in accordance with all state and federal laws, always maintaining the best interest of students.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in education, testing, or related field from an accredited college or university (doctorate degree preferred)
  • Five years successful employment in as a public school employee, leading to an understanding of school district operations
  • Five years in a leadership capacity in the testing field, either with a public agency or a company that specializes in assessment.
  • Residence in Oklahoma

Knowledge/Skills/Abilities

  • Knowledge of validity and reliability of data, as well as the inherent limitations of high-stakes testing
  • Ability to make the testing company or companies with which the state contracts work in the best interest of the students of Oklahoma, rather than making the students of Oklahoma work for the benefit of the vendor(s)
  • Skill in communicating promptly with stakeholders regarding concerns with the state testing program
  • Ability to lead a team of content area assessment specialists who will ensure that test items align with Oklahoma Academic Standards (but definitely nothing federal)
  • Knowledge of Oklahoma school districts and the qualities that make each different
  • Understanding of the impact of socio-economic factors on student achievement and recognition of the extent to which they predict standardized test results

Examples of Work Performed

  • Successfully complete all required student testing (and a limited amount of item tryouts) within each school year’s testing window and with the least possible amount of disruption to instruction
  • Coordinate and conduct training of Oklahoma school personnel on the implementation of the Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) College and Career Readiness Assessment (OCCRA)
  • Closely advise the SDE communication team on future renaming, rebranding, and marketing efforts, should such an occasion present itself
  • Coordinate and conduct training of any testing vendor(s) about the extent to which Oklahoma school district calendars, technology, and staffing levels impact the ability of the state to conduct standardized testing
  • Ensure student confidentiality at all times, including any appeals made on behalf of children to the SBE
  • Utilize practicing Oklahoma educators and the input they provide in the item selection and standard setting processes
  • Establish performance levels for each state assessment prior to the testing window each school year
  • Align with state research universities to determine the efficacy of state and federally enacted accountability systems
  • Advocate for students to the SBE relative to the impact of federal and state laws and policies on their academic progress
  • Develop strategies for communicating the impact of the state’s assessment and accountability policies on specific populations, such as special education students and English language learners
  • Construct a definition of Full Academic Year that school district personnel can both understand and accept

I looked at a posted position for the formatting, but the language definitely reflects my own preferences. This probably has more boxes that a school district would check than what a state agency under the indirect control of Chiefs for Change would check. In short, I hope the person who replaces McBee on a permanent basis is not a Jeb Bush/Tony Bennett/Janet Barresi crony. I’m hopeful we can find an Oklahoma educator with a strong testing background.

And of course, I wish Dr. McBee well in her post-SDE life.

Benchmarks and Testlets and Pilots, oh my!

February 11, 2014 5 comments

It was bound to happen. Once Measured Progress won the right to administer our 3-8 Reading* and Math tests, you knew they had to do something to pad their profit. In emails across the state today:

We at Measured Progress are honored to have been chosen by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to serve as assessment partner for the Oklahoma College and Career Readiness Assessment (OCCRA). The OCCRA will reflect the learning expectations articulated by Oklahoma’s new state academic standards.

Since the award was announced we have heard from many Oklahoma district administrators who are looking for assessments comparable in rigor and depth to that of the new academic standards. We are pleased to offer Measured Progress COMMON CORETM Assessments–a suite of testing tools specifically designed for use in the classroom and available now. While we are aware that Oklahoma has developed state-specific academic standards, we also know that the two sets of standards are parallel in rigor.

To be clear, the COMMON CORE Assessments are not predictors of student performance on the OCCRA or any other high-stakes test. Rather, they are formative assessment instruments that provide teachers with data to inform and adjust instruction. They also offer students the opportunity to take assessments similar in quality and depth to that of the new state assessment.

COMMON CORE Assessments include:

  • Benchmarks–tests that can be administered four times a year to give teachers valuable feedback about students’ grasp of the standards
  • Testlets–short, targeted quizzes that cover key standards and help teachers focus instruction
  • Item Bank–selected-response, short-answer, and constructed-response items that enable teachers to build their own classroom assessments

The Measured Progress COMMON CORE Assessments are delivered on a platform provided by our technology partner, eMetric, giving students the chance to take classroom tests on an interface virtually identical to what they’ll see on the state assessment. We are also preparing to pilot with districts a new generation of science assessments, as well as curriculum-embedded performance assessments–both built to reflect the state of the art in technology and content quality.

I will be calling you in the next couple of weeks to explore how we might help you make your local assessment program more effective and informative. In the meantime, please visit our website to learn more about the Measured Progress COMMON CORE Assessments. And if you are interested in participating in our science pilot, please visit our website or send an e-mail to our Product Management Group.

I want to see a show of hands. Which of you Oklahoma administrators have been pestering these poor people over the last three months? Let them breathe already! They’ve been busy preparing field tests item tryouts for our students to take after they’ve taken their real tests. If they don’t opt out that is. Because that would be wrong.

It sounds like Measured Progress is ready to provide something that schools are getting right now from Acuity for free. I just wonder at what cost. And they can’t say this strongly enough, but the benchmark test is no predictor for what will become OCCRA.

I am still giggling every time I say or read that. I have no plans to stop.

The kicker comes in the last sentence – the science pilot. Funny – I don’t think Measured Progress is our testing vendor for science. What’s that about, you ask?

Why Participate?

  • Students will get exposure to more rigorous science content likely to be seen in future Next Generation Science (NGSS) curriculum and assessments— through testlets and curriculum-embedded performance tasks.
  • Educators can evaluate the rigor of these new items and determine how well items helped them assess student understanding of the NGSS.
  • Feedback from students and educators will help inform the development of standards-based science assessments at Measured Progress.

What will my district pilot?

  • Districts can choose to pilot short pre-configured testlets and/or curriculum-embedded performance tasks.
  • Testlets are a collection of items that include five to seven items and cover grades 3-8, targeting specific Performance Expectations from NGSS.

What will be expected of educators and students in my district?

  • Curriculum-embedded performance assessments cover science content in grades 6-8; districts can also pilot an integrated math, ELA, and science task designed for fifth graders. 

  • All administrators must sign a non-disclosure agreement.

  • Pilot assessment materials will be administered between February and mid-May of this school year.

  • Educators will use available rubrics to evaluate student work and return completed student work to Measured Progress by June 1, 2014.

  • Participants will take part in an online training, which goes over administration, scoring, and how to complete the feedback survey.

But Oklahoma didn’t adopt the NGSS – we have OASS. It’s totally different! Besides, this is just an opportunity to sample their wares – not their instructional materials, but their test items. It’s not a field test. It’s not even an official item tryout. It’s a pilot. They’ve found another thing to call subjecting our students to tests that have no meaning. The creativity of these people will never end!

Keep in mind the benefit to us as educators is only that we get to see assessment items that may align to the new science standards, even though the state has not yet begun the process of selecting a vendor for those assessments. There’s no training over the standards themselves or how to improve instruction. This will absolutely be testing for its own sake. The testing company will benefit. Schools will not.

Welcome to the testing mélange, Measured Progress. You’re gonna fit in pretty well around here.

 

*It’s not all reading. It never is.

The Stress Test

January 28, 2014 8 comments

Today, students across Oklahoma will suspend learning for two hours to participate in a state-mandated test of the computer systems that testing companies – CTB/McGraw-Hill and Measured Progress – will be using in a few months. Each of these companies gets millions from Oklahoma, but it is the students and teachers across the state testing their system for them.

Wargames_Computer_Screenshot - Copy

The frustration caused from this is threefold. First, tests are way more important than they should be. They determine graduation, promotion to fourth grade, and public perception of our schools. We want the systems to work. More importantly, though, we want time to teach. Reading. Math. Science. History. Music. Computer education. Every time we go into the computer lab to test or pretend test, we lose valuable instructional time. In many schools throughout the state, computer classes get the worst end of the deal.

Second is the fact that with some of this, we are taking a practice test for practice tests. Measured Progress is developing tests that we will use next year. They are going to conduct field testing item tryouts during the testing window this spring. The hour schools spend on this will be a complete waste of time. Hopefully this doesn’t become the new standard for how we operate.

Third – and this one lingers from the original message schools received – is the threat handed down by the SDE for anyone who dares to teach from 9:00 to 11:00 today. Even though schools received a message with a much softer tone on Friday, the score hasn’t changed. I don’t believe the SDE really has the power or the will to revoke funding or credentials over this. I also don’t know anyone planning to test that belief right now.

wargames

On Double Standards and Opt Outs

January 17, 2014 3 comments

As I mentioned Wednesday, Superintendent Barresi has made a very big deal about the fact that she has told the federal government that our kids have had too much testing. Rob Miller then pointed out last night that it’s such a big deal, she’s taken to bragging about it on her campaign website. It’s not just that, however. She also blames schools for the excessive testing:

Even though the state only requires one round of testing each year in the spring, many districts choose to add additional tests and benchmark exams throughout the school year, and parents have expressed concern about the number of tests their kids are required to take.

Technically that’s true. Benchmark testing is a strategy utilized by many school districts in order to plan remediation strategies throughout the school year. It’s even a component of the Other Academic Measures many schools have chosen as part of the new teacher evaluation system.

Benchmark testing is so prevalent, in fact, that it was the centerpiece of the settlement with CTB/McGraw-Hill last summer after they completely botched our state testing in the spring. To refresh your memory, here is a breakdown of what the state received for its troubles:

  • A cash settlement ($367,205)
  • Professional development for teachers to help them become more acquainted with the type of items that can be expected on new English language arts and math assessments and how to adjust instruction so students will be successful on these tests. ($13,000)
  • Formative tests for teachers that can be given on a voluntary basis twice a year to measure student learning and drive instruction for the benefit of increased student achievement in the second grade. ($678,400)
  • Formative tests for teachers that can be given on a voluntary basis twice a year to measure student learning and drive instruction for the benefit of increased student achievement for grades 3 through 11. ($6,600)
  • The commissioning of an independent study to evaluate the impact of the disruptions on student test scores. HUMRRO, Inc. has expertise in the area of analyzing testing disruptions. They will provide an independent opinion that is expected to be delivered in late August. ($48,000)
  • Prior to testing, CTB will conduct a technology readiness assessment of each Oklahoma School District to: ($125,000)
    • Capture specifications regarding bandwidth, number of workstations, server
      configuration, etc. at each school site
    • Identify a technology contact at each school district
    • Perform online stress tests at every site
    • Conduct training and deploy implementation services at all sites
    • Establish a technology forum to deliver regular communications to districts

In part, Barresi is blaming schools for the over-testing of students. Meanwhile, the SDE negotiated a package with the vendor that spends more than half of the settlement on benchmark testing – testing that a lot of districts aren’t even using.

You’ll also remember that last year, the SDE “investigated” brother-in-blogging Rob for the high number of opt-outs at his school. When schools decide not to play along with Barresi’s whims, it’s downright criminal! Then Diane Ravitch got involved, and we never heard anything else about the story.

Now we hear that some districts plan to skip the readiness assessment. As you can see above, it’s a miniscule chunk of the CTB settlement. I question why this is our burden at all. We’re paying the testing companies tens of millions of dollars. It shouldn’t require further disruptions of learning to ensure that their crap works.

The “stress test” story was somehow overlooked by the Oklahoman, but the Tulsa World covered it pretty well:

The notice states that the testing vendors will report the results to the Department of Education and that if districts don’t participate in the mandatory tests, the state Board of Education has the authority to withhold state funds and official recognition, including accreditation, plus “to revoke the certificates of persons failing or refusing to make such reports.”

Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr is president of the Tulsa County Superintendents Association and said he received phone calls from several of his counterparts who shared his reaction.

“It’s unbelievable that we have to submit our district to this expectation,” Burr said. “All computers that will be used in testing? We either have to take students away from instructional time or beg parents to volunteer to sit down and help us with the 400 to 500 computers that we will have to test.”

Education Department spokesman Phil Bacharach said the readiness tests are designed to prevent a repeat of last year, when malfunctions with online testing caused thousands of students’ tests to be invalidated in Oklahoma, which was one of several states reportedly affected by server crashes by online testing giant CTB McGraw-Hill.

“We want to do everything we can to avoid what happened last spring,” Bacharach said. “An inconvenience now would be better than an inconvenience down the road.”

Burr said he believes the burden for readiness tests should lie primarily with testing companies and that their tests could be accomplished by using a much smaller, representative sample of school computers.

“To use a threat to ensure our participation seems to be the typical tactic of this state Department of Education,” he said. “This isn’t the first threat we have received, and we will likely comply because of it. But why are we being asked to do the work of the vendors that are being paid in the neighborhood of $50 million?”

Tricia Pemberton, an education department spokeswoman, said the stern language was used to communicate “the gravity of the situation.”

“Certainly, we never anticipate it getting to the level of us holding somebody’s certification,” Pemberton said. “But we have heard from some districts that they don’t intend to participate. If not all districts get on at that time, it’s not a valid test of the capacity of the system.”

Bullies don’t like it when the little guy pushes back. This is why we love movies like Braveheart and A Christmas Story. That’s what Barresi has been up against lately. School districts are sick of the disrespect she has shown teachers and administrators from day one of her administration. They are sick of the double standards. She pushed Jenks, and they pushed back.

Her mouth says this:

https://twitter.com/JanetForKids/status/423858469943255040

Her actions tell a different story.

Testing: Relief, a New Definition, and a Threat

January 15, 2014 13 comments

School districts have received a lot of information about testing from the SDE this week. Talk about your mixed messages…

Relief:

Superintendent Barresi this week made a big splash by eliminating the double testing requirement of middle school students who take math classes for high school credit. In the past, if a seventh or eighth grade student (and sixth grade in some cases) were to take Algebra I, Geometry, or Algebra II, he or she would still have to take the grade-level math test. It never made sense. For years, parents and schools have wanted this changed, and now, fortunately, it has been.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 14, 2013) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi today notified district school superintendents that middle school students testing in Algebra I, Algebra II or Geometry are no longer required to take the grade-level math assessment.

“This double testing has long been a requirement of the U.S. Department of Education, but it is unnecessary and not in the best interest of our students,” Barresi said.

Currently, students in seventh grade and eighth grade can take high school-level math courses. But students doing so are also being required to take seventh-grade or eighth-grade math and score proficient on these math exams, in addition to scoring proficient on the end-of-instruction test in Algebra I. Proficiency on the Algebra I end-of-instruction test is a graduation requirement of the Achieving Classroom Excellence law, enacted in 2005.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) requested a waiver from the double requirement in November 2013 but has yet to receive a response. The upcoming spring testing window, Barresi said, made it necessary for OSDE to do away with the double-testing requirement immediately.

The spring testing window starts April 10.

For accountability purposes, assessment results for the higher-level math classes will also count for a middle school’s A-F grade.

The one downside I see to this is that those schools will probably take a hit on their A-F Report Cards. We all know I’m not a huge fan anyway, but since these reports are the monkeybars on the education reform playground, even a difference of a couple of points can make a difference – not a real difference, but a perceived one.

New Definition

School districts also received notice this week that the SDE was making changes to the testing program. You can see the list below, but the key change comes in the first bullet. From this point forward, schools are required to count students who miss the first six weeks of school as Full Academic Year students. The definition of FAY has changed before. At one point, it had been defined as continuous enrollment for a full year – as in from the end of the last year’s test cycle. Then it changed to the beginning of the school year, which probably makes sense anyway. This change does not.

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 01/15/2014 05:17 PM CST

Dear Superintendents, District Test Coordinators, Principals, and District Technology Coordinators,

The Oklahoma State Department of Education is in the process of amending Oklahoma’s ESEA flexibility waiver. Some major changes to be implemented this year include the following:

  • The Definition of Full Academic Year (FAY) status has been changed to enrollment from Oct. 1 to the time of testing with no lapse of enrollment greater than 10 consecutive days of instruction
  • The AMO description has been updated to remove the growth components from the Math and Reading Performance Indicators
  • The accountability system for small schools (less than 10 tested students) is described
  • OMAAP exams are no longer being offered for first-time test takers and are thusly no longer included in accountability determinations
  • Students scoring 10% above pre-determined cut scores on alternate exams such as the ACT or SAT are eligible for exemption from the Algebra II, Geometry, English III, and U.S. History EOI exams
  • The minimum sample size for reporting student information (i.e., FERPA reports) is now 10 students

The ESEA addendum detailing these changes can be viewed at http://ok.gov/sde/accountability-assessmentsThis document and the associated appendices replaces [sic] the NCLB Accountability Workbook that was in place before Oklahoma’s request for ESEA Flexibility.

I have no idea what motivated this change. Maybe Oklahoma was counting too many students as NFAY to make the feds happy. In any case, this will disproportionately hurt schools with high mobility. Those tend to be the schools with the highest levels of poverty too. It is also important to note that changing the sample size will increase the volatility in reporting for schools with small populations of subgroups. With only 10 students in a group, one student’s performance can make a huge difference.

The Threat

Lastly, the SDE sent out an email late this afternoon, reminding school districts that they must participate in the so-called Stress Test for the testing companies. Immediately, the okeducationtruths inbox began receiving messages. People are none too happy. Please read all the way to the bottom of the message:

SDE: Participation in Statewide Online Readiness Test is Required

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 01/15/2014 03:45 PM CST

Statewide Online Readiness Test

The January 28, 2014, Statewide Online Readiness Test is designed to ensure that the online assessment of students will be both reliable and valid. This required test will verify that at each school testing site:

the correct Test Client is installed on all computers that will be used for testing;

the required Content Package is installed on all computers that will be used for CTB testing;

each computer meets the required technical specifications;

each computer can connect with and communicate to the vendor’s servers;

the school’s infrastructure is correctly configured and can support the full load of students who will be testing simultaneously;

the test content can be correctly displayed;  and

the testing client is fully operational on each computer.

This readiness test requires that on January 28th, all of the computers that will be used for assessment log into the testing site and “take” a practice test.  If the technology setup has been done correctly, each Readiness Test can be completed in about 30-45 minutes.  Schools can choose whether to have students take the practice test or have adults move from computer to computer to complete the readiness test.

Each assessment vendor will have a one hour window for their readiness tests on January 28, 2014.

CTB         

9:00 to 10:00 a.m. CST – all middle schools and high schools will participate in the readiness test using the CTB test client and content (schools with students in grades 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12).

Measured Progress

10:00 to 11:00 a.m. CST – all schools serving middle school students (grades 6, 7, and 8) will also participate in the readiness test using the Measured Progress test client.

If your school day does not start at 9:00 a.m., you can choose to do CTB testing from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and Measured Progress from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Each computer that will be used for testing needs to complete the appropriate readiness test(s).

Our assessment vendors will report the number and type of devices that successfully complete the readiness test. We will use that information to certify that all of the required schools in each district have met the readiness requirements.

Participation in the Oklahoma Readiness Tests is considered a required report under 70 O.S. § 3-104, subsection (13). 

13. Have authority to require persons having administrative control of all school districts in Oklahoma to make such regular and special reports regarding the activities of the schools in said districts as the Board may deem needful for the proper exercise of its duties and functions. Such authority shall include the right of the State Board of Education to withhold all state funds under its control, to withhold official recognition, including accrediting, until such required reports have been filed and accepted in the office of said Board and to revoke the certificates of persons failing or refusing to make such reports;

In other words, if any of you schools out there (and I’m not pointing fingers at particular counties) decide that you don’t want to play with the testing companies on January 28th, the SDE may withhold your funding. I wouldn’t read that as an idle threat. I would read that as an actual threat.

Weren’t we just talking about character a couple of days ago? And now she’s already threatening schools.

Testing is a huge stress on schools. Because of space and computer limitations, classes often have to be displaced – sometimes for weeks at a time. Asking schools to do that – even for a brief window – on a random day in January, is a major imposition.

If someone were to choose non-compliance, any resulting loss of funds would be completely unacceptable.

Parents, teachers, legislators – oh, and voters – need to know this.

Mystery Solved: Measured Progress Wins!

November 9, 2013 6 comments

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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