It's hard to overestimate the importance of standardized tests in public schools today. Grade advancement, high school diplomas, teacher bonuses, principals' jobs and school reputations can all hinge on whether a student picks the right answer.
So who creates the tests that carry so much weight?
Much of the work is done by five giants: CTB/McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service, Harcourt Assessment, Pearson Educational Measurement and Riverside Publishing. Together, the companies own about 90 percent of the state-testing business, which has become a $1.1 billion industry since passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. The law, which took effect in January 2002, requires states to give annual reading and math tests to third- through eighth-graders, and to test students in those subjects once again in high school.
Working with state educators, the big five — or big four, once Pearson's planned acquisition of Harcourt takes place — create and score the tests. But the explosion of testing and changes in the types of tests states administer have left the companies scrambling to keep up.
Read the full report Do State Tests Make the Grade? on Stateline.org's Web site.