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Education department selects new state tests

After months of uncertainty, the state education department has selected an exam to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests.

The American Institutes for Research is the winner of the coveted $220-million contract to develop and administer the new statewide exams, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced Monday.

The Washington-based non-profit beat out testing giants Pearson and CTB-McGraw Hill.

“I am confident that this is the best choice for Florida’s students,” Stewart said. “This assessment will measure their progress and achievement on Florida Standards, which, along with high quality instruction, will give every student the opportunity to be college and career ready.”

The exams will be aligned to the Florida Standards, new education benchmarks based on the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Stewart has said the assessments will be ready for the 2014-15 school year.

Still, Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning said he had concerns that the test would not be fully vetted, and that a trial run of selected questions will take place in Utah.

“I will assure you our [population of English-language learners] is much higher than Utah’s,” Browning said.

AIR may not as well known as the large testing companies that lost out in the competitive bidding process, but the non-profit has experience in Florida. In 2011, the group won a contract to develop the complex new formula used to evaluate teachers.

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