Report 94109 Summary - August 1994

A Review of the Department of Education's Cost and Development of the California Learning Assessment System

Results in Brief

With the enactment of Chapter 760, Statutes of 1991 (SB 662), the Legislature directed the State Board of Education and the Department of Education (department) to develop and implement a system to assess students. This system should have, as its primary purpose, the improvement of instruction in California's public schools. In response to this legislative mandate, the department began to develop a more comprehensive, statewide assessment system with various components including the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) exam. As required by SB 662, the department developed four exams to address the specific content areas of reading, written expression, mathematics, science, and history-social science. The department combined the content areas of reading and written expression into one exam, commonly referred to as the English-language arts exam.

To support the development and implementation of the CLAS exam, SB 662 included an appropriation of approximately $9.3 million to the department for fiscal year 1991-92. For fiscal years 1992-93 and 199394, the Legislature appropriated additional funding of approximately $14.8 million and $25.9 million, respectively. However, in the budget act for fiscal year 1994-95, the governor eliminated additional funding for the CLAS with the intention that the funds be set aside until legislation is enacted to reform the testing process. The 1994-95 budget bill also renamed the CLAS to the California Comprehensive Testing Program.

The purpose of this audit was to review the department's process for developing items for the CLAS exam. In addition, we conducted this audit to determine whether the department complied with state laws and regulations when it awarded contracts for developing and implementing the CLAS exam. Finally, we conducted the audit to report on the nature and amount of funds expended for the CLAS exam from January 1992 through May 1994 and to determine the appropriateness of the expenditures. During our review we noted the following:


If the program funding is restored, the department should develop and follow standard written procedures to ensure that the methods used to recruit and select new members to the advisory committees, development teams, and Community Review Panels are fair and consistent for all four content areas and that the committees and teams represent the diversity of the California population.

To ensure that it does not circumvent the State's civil service system, the department should take the following actions:

To ensure that its expenditures for contracts are appropriate and reasonable, the department should take the following actions:

To ensure that the department does not expose the State to potential monetary liability for work performed if the contract or interagency agreement is not approved, the department should ensure that its contractors do not perform work or provide services before the department obtains approval for its contracts.

Agency Comments

The department disagrees with some of the conclusions in our report. For example, the department disagrees with our findings related to selecting members of the development teams and balanced treatment review panels. However, the department did agree with our recommendation to formalize its standard procedures in writing. Additionally, the department disagrees that its use of the Far West contract circumvented the State's civil service system. Rather, the department contends that the contract supplements the department's civil service staff. Further, the department disagreed that it exposed the State to potential monetary liability when its contractors started work before the contracts were approved by the Department of General Services. Finally, the department agreed to review the travel costs for all contracts to ensure compliance with State rules and request written progress reports prior to contract payment