State seems to have had right to see cheat data; Contract with Caveon appears to grant info superintendents want

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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Some Texas superintendents have complained that state officials haven’t given them enough information to investigate their schools’ appearance on Caveon’s list of schools with suspicious TAKS scores.

State officials say that’s because they don’t have the information themselves.

But Caveon’s contract to analyze Texas’ test scores seems to give state officials substantial access to the data necessary to investigate potential cheating.

“Consultant agrees that all Works are, upon creation, works made for hire and the sole property of TEA,” states the contract, obtained by The Dallas Morning News. “Consultant hereby assigns to TEA all worldwide ownership rights, including the Intellectual Property Rights, in the Works, without the necessity of any further consideration.”

Caveon has said its methods and algorithms are proprietary and can’t be shared with the TEA or the public. But the contract pledges to provide the TEA with substantially more data than Caveon has apparently turned over.

It promises “summary and detailed results” from its analysis, including detailed information on “the incidence of test fraud/theft by classroom and school” and “cheating and piracy activity in individual examinees.”

When asked about the contract language, the state’s director of assessment, Lisa Chandler, responded via e-mail. She referred The News to a legal filing by attorneys for Pearson – the company that runs Texas’ testing programs – in an open-records dispute before the state attorney general’s office. That document argues that the “TEA has no carte blanche right to the disputed information.” It is unclear whether the TEA agrees with that assessment.

To date, the TEA has been provided with only a partial list of the classrooms and schools where Caveon found potential problems. The agency has no detailed information on what, exactly, was suspicious about those classrooms. It also has no data on individual students.

But it may be hard to obtain that information now. Caveon’s contract to analyze the state’s test scores expired in February, according to documents. Earlier this month, a Caveon vice president said his company had completed all of its obligations to the TEA and that, should the agency want more data, a new contract would likely be necessary.

In the version of the contract released to The News, the cost of Caveon’s analysis is redacted. A note from Pearson states that the “Payment Terms are Confidential and Proprietary to NCS Pearson, Inc.”

The TEA previously stated that it paid more than $500,000 for Caveon’s analysis. At this point, spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said, it is unclear how much of the agency’s money was spent on it.