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For Immediate Release
March 9, 2006

State School Superintendent says vendor performance on ISAT ‘not acceptable’
Test remains valid, but delivery of materials fails to make grade

Springfield, Ill. – State Superintendent of Education Randy Dunn today announced that Harcourt Assessment, a company that had contracted with the Illinois State Board of Education to deliver Illinois Standards Achievement Test materials to Illinois school districts, has failed to meet its contractual obligation with the state.

“We’re here today as we begin the annual State testing process for Illinois students,” Dunn said. “Unfortunately, as the process begins this year, Illinois school districts are dealing with major difficulties in getting their test materials due to the State’s testing vendor performance. The State’s testing vendor is Harcourt Assessment—a vendor selected and approved by the old State Board of Education in 2004. In short, Harcourt has failed to deliver testing materials to Illinois districts according to its contract with the State.”

The Illinois State Board of Education is scheduled to meet Thursday, March 16 and at that time will consider the superintendent’s recommendation on cancellation of the Harcourt contract.

Harcourt will stay on long enough to complete the current testing cycle.

“We expect them to improve their performance during the remaining time,” Dunn said.

Dunn pointed out that numerous problems have been encountered by Illinois school districts, including test and answer documents that were not shipped to schools in a timely manner which have prevented some school districts from testing as scheduled. Other problems encountered with the tests include misprints, inappropriate collation, and no answer at a 1-800 number as well as an excessive delay in responding to telephone ordering requests.

“The performance of this vendor is not acceptable to the new State Board. Let me make it clear that the Illinois State Board of Education’s diligence with this vendor has been constant, making clear our expectations for their performance,” Dunn added.

“Sometimes, we’ve told Harcourt what it needs to do to solve problems it created, and its attempts to solve the problem have only made things worse,” Dunn said.

ISBE lawyers are reviewing all legal aspects of this matter, and Superintendent Dunn will recommend to the Board that its contract be terminated for cause as quickly as possible. If Harcourt fails to fulfill its duties over this testing period, the superintendent will let education colleagues in 49 other states know of its disappointment with Harcourt.

The Harcourt contract for the ISAT test was unanimously approved by the Illinois State Board of Education on September 2, 2004 . Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed new board members to the Illinois State Board of Education on September 14, 2004. Those appointments were effective September 15, 2004 and the new board conducted its first meeting on September 20, 2004.

Superintendent Dunn was appointed as Interim State Superintendent on September 20, 2004.

This was the first year Harcourt had been contracted by ISBE to administer the ISAT tests.

The ISAT measures individual student achievement relative to the Illinois Learning Standards. The results give parents, teachers, and schools one measure of student learning and school performance.

“The stakes don’t get any higher than this. Every school and every district’s measure of ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’ under the Federal No Child Left Behind Act hinges on student performance on these State tests,” Dunn said.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777