About That Charlotte Observer Op-Ed From iStation’s President & COO

Istation will help NC students read and save teachers time.” – That’s the title of the op-ed written by Ossa Fisher, the President & COO of iStation, the new reading software that Mark Johnson unilaterally decided to use to replace the existing mClass for the Read to Achieve initiative.

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It appeared in the Charlotte Observer this past week.

If you have not read Justin Parmenter’s work that investigates the iStation contract, then please do so. Simply go to Notes From The Chalkboard. The purpose of this particular blog post is to not talk about the manner in which iStation came to NC. Parmenter’s posts already do that extremely well.

This post is in response to the op-ed itself and in response to why it appears in the Charlotte Observer in the first place because what Ms. Fisher tries to say here doesn’t speak half as loudly as what her op-ed actually communicates.

  • When does a software product already slated to be used in schools have to defend itself in a widely circulated newspaper? Not many times do you see a company who has already been contracted by the state feel the need to validate itself in the state’s largest newspaper because of the immense opaqueness that surrounds its coming to NC?
  • iStation’s credibility and strength of product do not stand out. Many teachers around this state have spoken out not just about the timing of new change for the 2019-2020 school year, but many have talked about how much they have invested in this past year in the previous system in place – both time and money.
  • It’s funny that Fisher talk about the failure of Read to Achieve in terms of what mClass was able to do and not do. In essence, she’s showing that Berger and Johnson are scapegoating mClass for the failures of Read to Achieve. In reality, Read to Achieve has been failing ever since it started and interestingly enough this teacher has never heard of mClass as being the culprit for its failure. One 2018 Charlotte Observer article talked about an NC State study that measured the Read to Achieve initiative. What really stood out in this study was the suggestion that the state needed to front-load more support and resources for Pre-K through second grade students as well as continuing interventions through all grades.  The study suggests Read to Achieve has been too tightly focused on third grade, saying children need help as soon as they begin school and after they’ve advanced to fourth grade.”

    Reading Ms. Fisher’s out-of-state assessment of Read to Achieve leads one to believe that mClass was the culprit. And Berger and Johnson would love nothing more than to be able to scapegoat mClass in the process.

  • iStation had a particular lobbyist working for them. Doug Miskew was the lobbyist who represented both Class Wallet and iStation. Both got contracts with DPI through Mark Johnson against the wishes of many an educator. Miskew also is a frequent donor to campaigns for those in the NCGA who champion privatizing efforts.
  • Ms. Fisher wants to talk about the how iStation works in her op-ed. Not once does she delve in the manner in which the contract has come to NC. If she is so confident about the strength of iStation, then it should have been widely tested by teacher focus groups here in North Carolina under more transparent means over a period of time. And furthermore, if the strength of iStation was so apparent, then release the notes from the selection committees and minute from the meetings. Non-disclosure agreements should no longer have power after an actual contract has been signed.
  • Ms. Fisher does not acknowledge that 88 of the 115 superintendents signed a letter asking for more clarification and time.
  • And while last on this list, but certainly not the least powerful, what Ms. Fisher’s op-ed does really communicate loudly is that teachers can speak loudly. If enough of them were allowed to have voice in the selection process to begin with, then maybe better decisions and more efficient processes can be used in finding the best resources for our students.

But in the meantime, many of us look forward to more iStation people following us on social media while we keep pushing our state superintendent to be at least some what transparent ad have the guts to answer valid questions.