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Testing services contract approved

Just a coincidence.

By Emily Richmond

The Clark County School Board on Thursday approved spending $782,157 on assessment and testing services from CTB/McGraw-Hill to evaluate new students who arrive in the district speaking a language other than English.

The contract has no connection to former superintendent Carlos Garcia, who resigned in July to become vice president of urban markets for McGraw-Hill Cos., said interim Co-Superintendent Agustin Orci. CTB/McGraw-Hill is a division of the textbook giant.

The federal government requires schools to evaluate second-language students within 30 days of their arrival, Orci said. Additionally the state Education Department requires school districts to use the McGraw-Hill test for statewide assessments, Orci said.

"This is the only test on the market that assesses children from kindergarten to 12th grade," Orci said.

The district has been using versions of the McGraw-Hill assessment test since 1968, Orci said. The size of the company's contract has increased along with the district's population of students for whom English is a second language.

For the 2004-05 academic year the test was administered to more than 72,000 students, equaling about 25 percent of the total enrollment.

Several School Board members, including Shirley Barber and Sheila Moulton, expressed concerned about community perception of the lucrative contract going to McGraw-Hill.

"What we need to make clear to the public that there is no affiliation with the former superintendent with the purchase of these services," Moulton said. "We absolutely have no choice in giving this test because it is state and federally mandated."

Melba Madrid-Parra, director of the district's English Language Learner program, said Nevada was one of 17 states that formed a coalition to try to develop their own version of the assessment as an alternative to McGraw-Hill's test. The plan was abandoned after the state education departments agreed it would be too expensive and time-consuming, Madrid-Parra said.

Bill Hoffman, senior counsel for the Clark County School District, said state statute requires the School Board to approve all contracts with companies that have former district employees as officers and disclose all past relationships. The School Board satisfied that requirement, Hoffman said.

Gina Greisen, an elementary school parent who voiced her reservations about the McGraw-Hill deal to the School Board at Thursday's meeting, said the district's explanations fell short.

"There's something fishy about this," Greisen said following the School Board vote to approve the contract. "Maybe this contract is just one little dot, but it's all part of the big picture, and the big picture is looking pretty shady."

— Emily Richmond
Las Vegas Sun
http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-ed/2005/aug/26/519263070.html


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