ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A legal challenge that could have derailed New Mexico’s adoption of a new standardized test next spring was rejected Wednesday when the state’s purchasing agent ruled a contract for testing services was awarded fairly.
New Mexico is among 14 states and Washington, D.C., that belong to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium working to create a new online exam designed for the Common Core Standards. The exam will replace current state tests, which, in New Mexico, is the Standards Based Assessment.
Earlier this year, PARCC awarded a contract to Pearson to administer its exam.
But another testing company, American Institutes for Research, protested the contract, saying the bidding process unfairly benefited Pearson because of its prior work with PARCC, and noted Pearson was the only company that submitted a bid. AIR didn’t submit a bid because it wouldn’t have stood a chance, company officials have said.
And while there is not a dollar amount attached to the contract, AIR estimates in legal briefs it could be worth $900 million over four years.
AIR did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
District Court Judge Sarah Singleton in May ordered New Mexico’s purchasing agent, Lawrence Maxwell, to review AIR’s protest. She also ordered a halt to the contract work until Maxwell made a decision.
“It was a careful and thoughtful decision and approach made for the benefit of the public,” Maxwell wrote of the bid process in his determination.
The bidding process was reviewed by New Mexico’s Purchasing Office because the state’s Public Education Department was charged with reviewing bids on behalf of PARCC. All the PARCC states helped write the request for proposals.
Despite the contract delay posed by the protest, New Mexico is still on track to give the PARCC exam next spring, said Hanna Skandera, Education Secretary-designate.
“We’re in a good place,” she said.
A prolonged delay would have prevented the PARCC states from adopting the new test for the upcoming school year, Pearson’s lawyers said.
“Further delay in the RFP process would cause irreversible and irrevocable harm to the project deadlines for the PARCC assessments,” they wrote in a legal brief to Maxwell.
Lawyers for PED made a similar, although less explicit, argument in their legal brief, saying AIR’s challenge “only (worked) to stymie student progress in New Mexico.”
PARCC has had other struggles of late. Tennessee in May dropped out of PARCC after state lawmakers passed a law calling for the state to keep its current test one more year and to issue a request for proposals for a new test to be used in 2015-16.