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
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
“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,”
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
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.