NC Superintendent Mark Johnson abandons fight on Istation, pulls the plug on controversial contract

Update: Here are some additional thoughts on the surprise DPI move to consider:

Hold that happy dance
The Department of Public Instruction has announced the cancellation of the $8.3 million contract awarded by Superintendent Mark Johnson to Istation for North Carolina’s K-3 reading assessment.

The bombshell was buried at the end of a press release that went out this afternoon:

In light of the Governor’s announcement that students will not return to schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, the State Board’s decision to not seek progress monitoring data for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, and the novel needs K-3 students, educators, and parents will face next school year, DPI has terminated the June 2019 Read to Achieve diagnostic tool contract and will immediately begin a new process to procure one, uniform reading diagnostic tool before the start of the 2020-21 school year.  

Some background: Last June, Mark Johnson unexpectedly announced his decision to scrap mClass, a K-3 reading test which had been the primary Read to Achieve assessment tool since 2013, in favor of online reading test Istation. 

The move met with immediate opposition from educators and parents alike.  Pushback grew stronger when details about the process which ended with the multi-million dollar Istation contract award began to emerge.

It turned out that Johnson had ignored the advice of a broad committee of professional educators, subject matter experts, and Department of Public Instruction staff who engaged in an in-depth, months-long Request for Proposal (RFP) process before recommending North Carolina’s schools should continue using the mClass tool. 

Then he cancelled the RFP for murky reasons (which included a text message allegedly obtained by snooping on the personal communications of a retired DPI director) and assembled a small evaluation team almost entirely devoid of educators which would, eventually, select Istation for the contract.

After protests were lodged by Amplify, the parent company of mClass, the Department of Information Technology looked into the procurement process to determine whether or not it was conducted properly.  DIT held a week-long hearing in January to hear arguments from both sides and was expected to issue its decision soon.

It is surprising that DPI would announce its own cancellation of the contract rather than waiting for an official decision to be made by the Department of Information Technology, and it’s important to keep Mark Johnson’s history of Istation shenanigans in mind here.

DPI now has just weeks to successfully complete a new procurement process in order to have a K-3 reading assessment in place for the 2020-21 school year as mandated by North Carolina’s Read to Achieve law.

It’s unclear how that process will work or what Mark Johnson’s role in it will be given how spectacularly he bungled the last one.

2 thoughts on “NC Superintendent Mark Johnson abandons fight on Istation, pulls the plug on controversial contract

  1. As an elementary teacher, YES!!!!!!!!!!! We DEFINITELY need to get mClass back. The powers that be NEED TO LISTEN to teachers, not politicians.

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