Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Hadley firm to lay off  17 workers

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The Evaluation Systems group employs 257 people, the majority of whom work in the Hadley office, although some work in California. Pearson will lay off or relocate 21 of those employees, 17 of them in Hadley, according to company spokesman Adam Gaber. The company develops, administers and scores tests for teacher licensing across the country.

Gaber said that the Evaluation Systems group, which was known as National Evaluation Systems until it was purchased by Pearson Education Inc. in 2006, has lost business due to cuts in federal and state budgets.

“Business expansion for Evaluation Systems has slowed,” wrote Gaber in an email. “Regretfully, Evaluation Systems has had to let go a number of employees.”

Workers who face layoffs have been notified, but Gaber said Pearson is still attempting to relocate staff to other Pearson offices. The last day for employees who are laid off will be March 1.

National Evaluation Systems was founded in 1972 by William Gorth, a former University of Massachusetts professor who remains the president and CEO of the group.

NES began in the Carriage Shops in Amherst, but the company expanded over the years and moved first to Gatehouse Road and then to an 80,000-square-foot space in University Business Park in Hadley. In 2005, the company expanded the Hadley office by 50,000 square feet.

The Hadley headquarters for the Evaluation Systems group is now among the largest office buildings in Hampshire County. Gaber said the company will not be reducing office space.

In 2005, the year before NES was purchased by Pearson, it had sales of $73 million and gross assets of $16 million. Gaber declined to comment on whether the Evaluation Systems group has seen a decline in revenue. Gaber also declined to comment on whether other branches of Pearson would be laying off employees.

Evaluation Systems has nothing to do with the MCAS, which is administered by Measured Progress, an unrelated company based in New Hampshire. ES only administers teacher certification tests, including the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure. Because of budgets cuts, schools are laying off teachers, or not replacing ones who leave, therefore there are much fewer opportunities for prospective teachers, and fewer candidates are taking teacher certification tests.

Evaluation Systems has been poorly managed for years. This is unfortunate because they had at least a lukewarm to fair reputation in the valley in the late 90s and even that has declined. They did develop the MCAS (take that as a good or a bad thing--- depending on your stance on teacher testing) and they are part of the absolute mess around the video teaching portion of the exam. The money that sloshed through the company as a result of No Child Left Behind has dried up, and the test development process can be expensive and labor intensive, but it amazes me that a small company with the ability to build that new building in Hadley in 2003 and offer twice a year profit sharing to every employee (years before the Pearsons purchase---I'm not sure when they stopped profit sharing but they still did it when I worked there in 2004) is now laying off employees (a number of them are long term employees). Pearsons is a HUGE company. It is troubling to see that they purchased this business without the intention of investing Pearsons resources into this business. The original owners of NES got greedy and the employees are the ones to pay the price. This article is missing the experience and voice of the employees. It does not sound as if the writer did much research outside of reading the company's press release. As the local news resource, the Gazette writers should dig a little more to convey the full story.

What does Evaluation Systems do? I believe they produce the MCAS and teacher tests used in other states. But that would have been an important part of the story -- also an explanation of why their market is shrinking. (Yes, there have been budget cuts, but what were those budgets paying for?)

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