Superintendent Mark Johnson defies DIT contract stay, spends nearly $1 million on Istation

Late last night, NC Superintendent Mark Johnson notified school districts that he had just made an “emergency purchase” with Istation so that schools could continue using the controversial K-3 reading assessment.

In the email, Johnson explained that the move would enable schools to comply with the state’s Read to Achieve legislation after a district court judge declined to intervene on DPI’s behalf in the ongoing legal battle.

The email didn’t say that Johnson had just put nearly $1 million in Istation’s pockets for three months access to the online reading test.  It also didn’t mention that the purchase defies a stay issued by the Department of Information Technology which had blocked implementation of the Istation contract while that department–which has authority over state technology procurements–reviews the controversial process Johnson followed in awarding it.  

Johnson’s argument is that, in purchasing Istation, he is simply following the Read to Achieve law, which requires that students in grades K-3 “shall be assessed with valid, reliable, formative, and diagnostic reading assessments.”   However, it’s important to note that there are free reading assessments available that have already been approved by the State Board of Education which could be used while the Istation contract is reviewed.

Another alternative could have been for Istation to extend the Memorandum of Agreement it had crafted with DPI to allow North Carolina schools to continue using its product for free while it awaits a final ruling.

At any rate, Istation no longer has to wait for its cheddar, as Johnson’s emergency purchase spends $928,570 taxpayer dollars for access to the computer-based reading test from now through the end of March.

As long as we’re making emergency purchases, I know some social studies teachers who would love to have new textbooks so their students don’t have to keep drawing pictures of the last decade’s presidents…

You can review the emergency purchase document in its entirety below:


2 thoughts on “Superintendent Mark Johnson defies DIT contract stay, spends nearly $1 million on Istation

  1. So, what will the courts say about the stay being defied? I will tell you that we are still using it in our district, though our school is just doing a small part of it . One teacher reported glitches that changed one part of the test’s score dramatically. The thing that stinks is that we can no longer use MClass to meet the Read to Achieve standard, even though our district uses it. We have to rely on the BOG, EOG and iStation scores. 🙁 I don’t put much stock in the iStation score as accurate. 🙁

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