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Kan. ed board to consider new standardized tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The Kansas State Board of Education's impending decision on whether to switch providers for standardized math and English tests could end a 30-year reliance on the University of Kansas to create the annual state tests, but the director of the university's testing research center said it probably won't cause employees to lose their jobs.

The board is expected to receive a formal recommendation next week from the state Department of Education to switch to tests developed by a consortium called Smarter Balanced, the Topeka Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/HRGRe9 ) reported. A decision isn't likely until December.

Smarter Balanced is a consortium of states that is developing tests designed for new math and English standards called the Common Core. Kansas is a governing member of the consortium, which means it participated in developing the tests, but the state hasn't yet committed to using them.

Neal Kingston, director of the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, said last week that if the coalition starts providing the tests, the university would retain its contract with the Education Department for other services.

"If the state board sticks with CETE (Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation), they'll have more control over the testing program," Kingston said. "But if they stick with Smarter Balanced, that gives them comparability across states and it gives them shared resources, which gives them more bang for their buck."

The Smarter Balanced tests would include an array of new computer-adaptive and written-response features that Kansas' previous math and reading tests didn't have. Those features are necessary to more effectively test students on the Common Core standards because they allow ones that aren't multiple choice.

Kingston said his center could design the kind of tests Kansas education officials want, but the state Education Department would either need to pay more than its current $4.6 million contract with the university or give it more time to develop the tests.

The Smarter Balanced consortium developed the new tests with a $160 million Race to the Top federal grant.