To help educators meet the rigorous demands of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Scantron Corp. is offering $2.5 million worth of free, computer-based assessments to schools nationwide. The catch: schools taking advantage of the offer can expect to pay a one-time training fee of up to $2,000.

The initiative, announced March 25, will provide schools with 250,000 standards-based assessments using Scantron’s Performance Series, a computer-adaptive online assessment program tailored to each test taker’s individual ability and grade level.

According to Scantron executives, the company is offering the product at no charge to help financially troubled state and local governments meet the increased cost of accountability in America’s schools.

“Schools are being asked to cut expenses and increase accountability, which in many cases means more testing, assessment, and realignment of curriculum to meet state and national standards,” said Tom Hoag, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “Scantron is stepping up to the plate with a program aimed specifically at assisting schools in bridging the learning gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers, which is the ultimate goal of [NCLB].”

The assessments are offered in two subject areas: math and reading. More importantly, each test is customizable to individual state standards, said Joanna Goldston, marketing manager for Scantron.

According to Goldston, Performance Series assessments provide educators and administrators with the ability to disaggregate data on an individual, class, school, or district-wide basis.

The results—which are delivered in real time—enable educators to measure students’ progress toward prescribed goals instantly. The instantaneous feedback should enable educators to adjust their teaching practices as they go and create individualized learning plans for improved student achievement, Goldston said.

Keeping within the spirit of increased accountability, Performance Series also is built to break out student performance data according to different demographic levels, letting administrators know just how close certain groups of children are to reaching the magic threshold of NCLB compliance.

Scantron is offering up to 1,000 free assessments per district. However, it’s up to each school or district whether it wants to assess students’ reading or math skills—the deal does not include free assessments for both subjects.

The free Performance Series assessments are given at two times during the year: once to determine each child’s strengths and weaknesses related to state standards, and later in the school year to measure gains.

“This is Scantron’s offer to assist educators and administrators who are in need,” Goldston said. “It’s a goodwill gesture to provide schools with this technology.”

Skeptical? Well, these days even the word “free” can have its price.

Although there are no restrictions on what types of schools or districts can apply for these assessments—and the technology itself is free—educators should be aware of certain inherent fees associated with the implementation of Performance Series in schools, including the price of teacher training.

According to Goldston, participating schools can expect to pay a one-time fee of up to $2,000 for on-site training provided by the company.

Included in that fee is a face-to-face instructional training session for up to 20 school personnel. Educators who complete the program are encouraged to instruct other staff members how to use the assessment tools at no extra charge, the company said.

The price of the training program also includes a free technology evaluation from a Scantron service group, wherein company representatives evaluate a school’s computer infrastructure to decide whether or not the building is properly equipped to employ the technology.

Scantron said it will keep enrollment in the program open through May.

Links:

Scantron Corp. Performance Series
http://www.scantron.com/products/performance/index.htm