“A Clown Show” – DeVos Is Trying to Expand More Privatization to North Carolina

They are called Education Freedom Scholarships, and they were introduced this past February to much fanfare.

“Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, along with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), unveiled Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS), the Trump Administration’s key proposal to expand and improve the education options available to students across the country. The policy will make a historic investment in America’s students, injecting up to $5 billion yearly into locally controlled scholarship programs that empower students to choose the learning environment and style that best meets their unique needs. The policy would not rely on any funds currently allocated to public education, nor would it create a new federal education program. Participation would be voluntary for students, schools, and states.”


EFS will be funded through taxpayers’ voluntary contributions to state‐identified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Those taxpayers will then receive a non‐refundable, dollar‐for‐dollar federal tax credit. EFS will not create a new federal education program but instead will allow states to decide whether to participate and how to select eligible students, education providers, and allowable education expenses.

The state can decide “how to select eligible students, providers, and education expenses.”

This is North Carolina: the petri dish of “reform” and privatization. And who gets to decide for the state how that money is spent? It doesn’t take much to figure it out.

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Today, DeVos was in North Carolina to tout this new program. As reported by the News & Observer today,

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest promoted a new federal school choice program Wednesday that could allow more families to attend private schools or to homeschool their children.

The N&O article did quote Kris Nordstrom who offered probably the most succinct critique of this new DeVos initiative.

Locally, Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, said the proposed scholarship program is a terrible idea. He said it will likely result in more money going to help subsidize the tuition costs for parents who would have sent their children to private school anyway.

“We know that where we have these voucher programs we will be subsidizing religious extremist, anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” Nordstrom said in an interview Wednesday. “Schools that tell students dinosaurs walked with man, schools that tell students slavery wasn’t that bad.”

Nordstrom questioned the timing of the new program when DeVos is also talking about federal education cuts for initiatives such as afterschool programs and teacher training. DeVos attributed the cuts to Congress wanting the federal government to “tighten the belt.”

Nordstrom called Wednesday’s visit a “clown show all around” designed to help boost Forest, who is running for governor in 2020.

Nordstrom’s tweet later in the day clarified a little more about that “clown show.”

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That license plate idea was an idea from back in 2015. The plates were to look like this.

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The demand never reached 500 to start the production.

Forest is aligning himself more and more with Betsy DeVos. This is from last month.

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It is ironic how Forest can be so anti pro-choice and so pro-school choice at the same time. But that is exactly what Betsy DeVos is as well.

At the end of last month, Peter Greene, who writes the well-known Curmudgucation education blog wrote a piece for Forbes.com entitled “How School Choice Undermines Democratic Processes.”

In this very well-explained piece, he talks about something akin to what DeVos was pushing in North Carolina today – the Tax Credit Scholarship.

But Tax Credit Scholarships disempower taxpayers even further by putting the purse strings in the hands of wealthy individuals and corporations.

A TCS system essentially lets those folks give their dollars to schools instead of using the money to pay their taxes. In effect, the donors fund schools directly, rather than through tax dollars paid to the state (meanwhile, the state’s tax revenue drops a commensurate amount).

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Those iStation Cease & Desist Letters

Different media outlets have already reported that legal representation for iStation has sent out at least three Cease & Desist letters to individuals who have questioned the process by which iStation has procured a contract through NCDPI.

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Those individuals have in their calling as public school advocates and as tax payers sought information and have exposed the reasonable doubts surrounding Mark Johnson’s unilateral decision to award iStation a contract.

All three Cease & Desist letters have been published in WRAL. Here is the text of one of those letters all of which included the same language and claims.

This letter is to advise that Shanahan Law Group, PLLC represents Imagination Station, lnc. (“Istation”). As you are no doubt aware, Islation has been awarded the contract arising from the North Carolina Department of Public Read to Achieve RFP (“Contract”). Please direct all communication regarding this matter to me here at if you are represented by legal counsel, please direct this correspondence accordingly.

We have become aware that you have been making demonstrably false, misleading, and defamatory public statements about lstation. its agents, its products, and the process by which lstation was awarded the Contract by NCDPI. You were not involved in any part of the process by which this Contract was awarded, and NCDPI is just now beginning to release documents pertinent to the process. NCDPI has indicated that further documents will be released. Thus, your public statements are based on nothing more than unverifiable speculation and unsubstantiated statements by a former employee was not involved with the entire RFP process. Nevertheless, you have represented speculative, false, misleading, and defamatory information with respect to our client as fact in public media and other forums. Among other things, your conduct amounts to  defamation and tortious interference with the Contract that [station was legally and appropriately awarded by Accordingly, we hereby DEMAND that you immediately cease making false and misleading representations about Istation, its products, or the process by Which this Contract came into existence, whether in public or private, and retract your false statements,

Preservation Notice

As my client considers its legal options with respect to your conduct. please be advised that we believe that you are or may be in possession of documents, tangible items, and electronically stored information that will become an important and irreplaceable source of discovery and evidence. By this letter, you are hereby given notice not to destroy, conceal. or otherwise alter any papers, audio or video recordings, digital or electronic files, or data generated or stored on a computer or other storage media (6. g. hard disks or drives, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, backup tapes, flash drives, PDAs, smart phones, tablet devices, laptops or netbooks, PCs, servers, or backup media) from January 1, 2018 to the present that in any way relate to Istation, its products, or the process by which this Contract came into existence. Please note that this notice includes e-mails, chat logs, instant messages, text messages, voice mails, and social media posts, messages or writings of every kind. Failure to comply with this notice may result in severe sanctions being imposed by a court for spoliation of actual or potential evidence.

Accordingly, you must make every reasonable effort to preserve all documents and information related in any way to the categories of items listed above. These efforts include, but are not limited to, an obligation to discontinue all relevant data destruction, backup tape recycling, and auto-deletion or auto-preservation policies. This obligation also includes, but is not limited to, preservation of all documents, tangible items, and electronically

If you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please do not hesitate to contact me, or have your attorney contact me. Nothing in this correspondence is intended to prejudice any and all rights and remedies available to Istation under applicable law. All such rights and remedies are specically reserved.

Sincerely,

SHANAHAN AW GROUP, PLLC

 

First, there is absolutely no evidence that what any of these three people have said has been “demonstrably false, misleading, or defamatory.” If what they have said or what they have posted is taken that way by the company in question, then it is the result of exposing light on a rather shady situation. Just because what these three people and others have truthfully stated about iStation and how it came to have a contract with DPI makes iStation uncomfortable in no way means that it is “demonstrably false, misleading, and defamatory.” 

And besides, there was absolutely no specific item that was brought about in the letter as proof that they made “demonstrably false, misleading, and defamatory” statements. 

It’s just an appeal to false authority.

The letter then says, “You were not involved in any part of the process by which this Contract was awarded, and NCDPI is just now beginning to release documents pertinent to the process. NCDPI has indicated that further documents will be released.” 

Well, that’s exactly why each of these three advocates have been asking questions and pushing for transparency. NCDPI only started releasing documents because of public records requests. And the fact that NCDPI is going to release more means that the truth of the matter still has not been fully exposed. Remember NCDPI stands for “North Carolina Department of PUBLIC Instruction.” The fact that NCDPI and iStation are not as transparent in this matter as they need to be actually makes them look more like the parties that are “misleading.”

Them there is this: “Your public statements are based on nothing more than unverifiable speculation and unsubstantiated statements by a former employee who was not involved with the entire RFP process.”

Actually, what these three have been exposing truthfully is that the public does not know what the actual RFP process was in the three different iterations of it.

“DEMAND”? That’s funny. A lawyer is demanding that these three advocates stop making statements about iStation? Exactly what statements was he referring to? Sounds like the burden of truth is on iStation and NCDPI to prove what they said with what information was available is false.

“Retract your false statements”? Which ones are false?

The whole “Preservation Notice” section sounds like a bunch of “legalese.” But it is funny that these three people who have been very open, public, and straightforward are asked to not destroy anything.

Maybe that “preservation notice” should apply to NCDPI as well and specifically Mark Johnson?

The problem is that what these three advocates were doing was exposing truth, part of which is that not all of what has happened in this iStation contract has been released or shown.

iStation does not own the truth. Nor does NCDPI. The truth owns itself. It’s how that truth is presented or not by iStation and NCDPI that is the question. In this case, it is the withholding of information that really is the problem and iStation and NCDPI own that. What these C&D letters really do is show that NCDPI and iStation are not willing to own the truth and present the facts. If that was not the case, then there would be no question.

Until iStation and NCDPI can prove that what these three have said openly is false and misleading, then there remains much reasonable doubt to how iStation procured a contract with NCDPI.

Makes one want to send a Cease & Desist letter to iStation to stop them from sending nebulous, bullying, and logically fallacious C&D letters to people who are working for public education.

 

 

“Honestly demean myself in the practice of an Attorney” – Mark Johnson’s Oath to “Come Clean” on iStation Contract

“There was a whistle-blower.”

“There were misstatements.”

“There was a conflict of interest.”

“There was not unanimous consensus.”

“There were nondisclosure agreements.”

“There is more documentation to come out.”

Look at all of the different “excuses” as to why State Superintendent Mark Johnson has not fully come clean about a unilateral decision to sign a contract with iStation.

Then remember that Mark Johnson is by trade a lawyer: an attorney with an active license who practiced (and will probably continue) in North Carolina and took an oath,  specifically this one:

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The last statement in that oath states that the person taking it will “swear that I will truly and honestly demean myself in the practice of an Attorney, according to the best of my knowledge and ability, so help me God.”

In this context, the word “demean” means “to conduct oneself or behave” in a certain way. Here it pertains to being honest and following the law. In fact, it means that an attorney must be a role model in lawful conduct and practice honesty.

Mark Johnson is a lawyer here in North Carolina who took an oath.

It’s time for him to come clean.

 

 

Cease & Desist Letters and a “Whistle-Blower” – This iStation Thing is Getting Murkier By The Minute

So much for transparency.

Two articles were posted today online from both the News & Observer and WRAL.com that shed more light on the clouds that intentionally keep surrounding the iStation contract awarded unilaterally by Mark Johnson this past month.

Justin Parmenter’s also posted today on his blog Notes From the Chalkboard further explaining why so many in North Carolina are doubtful of how iStation received its contract. It keeps adding substance to the actual truth of what has been happening. It might be best to start with that.

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And then when you are done with this post go and read Adrian Harrold Wood’s most recent posts from her Tales of an Educated Debutante Facebook page.

Parmenter talked about the release of documents in a public request for information released last Friday by DPI. It clearly showed that iStation was not the preferred vendor of the team put together at DPI to recommend a product to help with the Read to Achieve program.

Johnson has been fairly nebulous on his explanation of why DPI went against the committee’s recommendation of Amplify’s mClass product. Then this came out in the N&O’s article today (which references Parmenter’s most recent blog posts).

Graham Wilson, a spokesman for Johnson, said Monday that a whistleblower informed DPI that one of the committee members failed to disclose they had a prior business relationship with Amplify. Wilson did not identify the individual, who he said is no longer employed by DPI.

But Wilson said that person served on an earlier review committee that was disbanded in March 2018. That was not the later committee that recommended mClass.

This is the first time there happened to be a whistle-blower mentioned.  The problem is that that whistle-blower incident was from a previous committee. And this quote is from an updated version of the N&O’s story. The original released version had this quote in it:

“While this employee’s failure to disclose was part of a canceled RFP (Request for Proposal), the Superintendent is pleased that the final decision resulted from a process that was fair and objective.”

To clarify, there have been three review committees that were been formed to review products related to Read to Achieve that involved Amplify’s mClass and iStation.

The first started in 2017 and worked into 2018. That was the one that was disbanded because of the incident with the whistle-blower and the person who was connected to Amplify.

The second committee to review products started in late 2018. That is the one which recommended mClass and is the one chronicled in the released notes from last Friday that Parmenter went through and reported on.

The third committee seems to be the phantom committee that has not had notes released on it as of yet, but from it Johnson supposedly made the decision to go with iStation.

But the statement made earlier today made it seem that the second committee was ruled tainted because of what happened in the first committee. In other words,  Johnson didn’t like the second committee’s recommendation and redid it (with third committee) and in the public’s eye attempted to blame the “whistleblower” from the first time as the reason to negate a perfectly legit process used by the second committee.

The N&O’s report also references cease & desist letters being sent to people through the law office of Kiernan Shanahan on behalf of iStation.

Kieran Shanahan, an attorney representing Istation, has sent cease and desist notices to several critics of the new contract. In a statement Monday, Shanahan said those people are “misrepresenting Istation by making false, misleading and defamatory public statements” and are unfairly harming and maligning the company.

“Istation was legally and appropriately awarded the contract in North Carolina and has a proven record and reputation as an industry leader in early education assessments across the country,” Shanahan said. “The cease and desist notices provided are a lawful and appropriate starting point to end the misinformation, set the record straight, protect Istation’s interests, and let the state move forward.” 

And then there is this:

In his statement, Shanahan also charges that a committee member may have been employed by Amplify.

Shanahan’s letter to “DEMAND” people to cease and desist referenced what happened in the first committee and made it seem like it was the legitimate reason for the second committee to have their recommendation nullified. (It also might be of interest to know that Shanahan is the finance chair of the NC Republican Party.)

WRAL’s post reported on the cease & desist letters as well and even named the people who received them.

The letters, which Shanahan’s office shared with WRAL News, do not cite any specific false, misleading or defamatory statements.

Amy Jablonksi, a former Department of Public Instruction staffer who is running for state superintendent, received her cease and desist letter on July 3. She led one of the committees that reviewed the companies competing for the contract and has criticized Johnson for “going against the advice” of educators and experts, which recommended Amplify over Istation.

In an in interview Monday, Jablonski called the cease and desist letters “an overt use of scare tactics that’s not OK to do.”

These were nonspecific cease & desist letters sent to three people which still reference an incident that never happened in that review committee that recommended mClass.

Jablonski is obviously one of the people who received a cease & desist letter.

According to the WRAL post, Parmenter received one today as well. As did …

Chelsea Bartel, a Triangle-based school psychologist, also received a cease and desist letter on Monday. She reached out to Istation on Twitter last month and asked for “peer-reviewed independent research studies on the validity of their assessment tool with a wide range of students.” When the company replied with links to research, she posted a 19-page review about the research.

Bartel even allowed WRAL to print her letter.

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Jablonski, Parmenter, and Bartel have done nothing more than tell the truth based on what has been made available, asked for information when questions arose,  and as public school advocates have reported in the hopes of shedding light on the truth.

And this cease & desist letter might be viewed by some as a scare tactic.

The rules of discovery cut both ways.

 

 

 

 

“In Case You Missed It” – From Idaho to NC, Another iStation Email to Personal Accounts

iStation’s COO & President sent out another email today to many NC parents and educators on their personal accounts again forcing many to ask the question, “Why is this company going to such extremes to validate itself to North Carolinians.”

The text of the letter follows the screenshot.

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In Case You Missed It: Istation Plays Vital Role in Idaho School District

CHALLIS, ID – An Idaho school district is expanding its use of Istation, according to a recent article in The Challis Messenger. Challis School District uses Istation’s assessments in K-3, but will extend that through sixth grade next year.

“Our programs are designed to work for all students, and can be beneficial regardless of grade level or student ability,” said Ossa Fisher, Istation President and COO. “We’re happy to see school districts taking full advantage of our program, which is designed to make life easier for teachers and produce positive results for students.”

Idaho requires K-3 students to take the Istation assessment, but the Challis School District decided to take that a step further. Next school year, all students in Kindergarten through sixth grade will take the assessment. The assessment will also be implemented as an optional benchmark in seventh through 12th grade.

According to Challis Superintendent Lani Rembelski, the district does more testing than is required to better understand student progress and problems. The optional benchmarks, along with other Istation assessments, provide teachers and administrators with more useful data to aid in student improvement.

Istation recently took over as the reading diagnostic tool for K-3 in North Carolina. Educators are currently training with the program, and will continue this acclimation during the fall. In the spring, Istation will have its official rollout in North Carolina schools.

“We believe Istation is the right product at the right time for both educators and students,” Fisher said. “We’re excited to work with the state’s teachers and students to ensure progress is made and that students receive the best educational experience possible.”

For more information and program updates, visit istation.com/northcarolina or Istation NC’s Facebook or Twitter.

In no way, shape, or form is this post trying to assert that what Chllias, ID is trying to do for their students is less than what other systems are doing for their students here in North Carolina. If iStation works for them and they came about its implementation in a democratic fashion based on their needs and wants, then more power to them.

But how does the adoption of iStation for a tiny school district in another state validate its use in our entire state system?

Challis School District has one elementary school: Challis Elementary School. North Carolina has over 2,500 public elemmentary schools.

Challis, ID has a population of almost 1,100 people. North Carolina has around 10,000,000 people.

Challis, ID does not have the ill-conceived Read to Achieve initiative. North Carolina does.

Challis, ID did not have a state superintendent make a unilateral decision on using iStation in its school. North Carolina did.

Did iStation need a lobbyist to convince Challis, ID to adopt it?

And did iStation email all the people in Challis, ID on how great it was?

 

 

 

 

The 21 Top “Accomplishments” of Our State Superintendent – Remember These in 2020

“Today is Jan. 5, 2017. There will never be another Jan. 5, 2017 ever again. No matter how we use this day, if we make the most of it, if we waste it, it’s gone. Every day we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day we lose. Every day we don’t take bold actions for our teachers, is a day they lose.” – Mark Johnson

On that day a tad over two and one-half years ago, Mark Johnson spoke of “urgency.” He spoke of “change.”

And remember that the time he has been in Raleigh is longer then his actual time in a classroom as an educator. It is longer than his time as a local school board member.

On this very day, Mark Johnson is closer to the end of his first (and hopefully only) term than he is to the beginning of it and it might be worth maybe looking at a list of those “bold actions he has taken for our teachers.”

Actually there are none. But there is a long list of actions (or lack of) that have more than represented his time in the state superintendent’s office.

  1. Johnson said that he conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft innovations in classroom teaching. He said at one time that he would present those findings when that tour was over in the first summer. But North Carolinians have not really heard anything except some glittering generalities.
  2. Johnson said that he would decrease the amount of standardized testing that NC would subject students. But the current bill in the NCGA does not alter school performance grades and seems to place a lot of emphasis on the ACT.
  3. Johnson celebrated the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and further entrenched our state into a relationship with SAS and its secret algorithms. Furthermore, he made sure that a system that actually shows how poverty affects school achievement is more entrenched in NC.
  4. Johnson celebrated the launching of  NC School Financial transparency website and again further entrenched our state into a relationship with SAS. And that’s ironic because Johnson has been rather “nontransparent” with how he has spent money and financed contracts.
  5. Johnson called for an audit of the Department of Public Education. And that million dollar audit to find wasteful spending actually showed that DPI was underfunded. So…
  6. Johnson did a reorganization of DPI and replaced high ranking officials with loyalists from the charter industry and made them only answer to him and not the State Board of Education.
  7. Johnson’s reorganization came after he won an empty lawsuit against the state board over having more powers over the DPI budget. That lawsuit lasted until the second summer of his term.
  8.  Johnson seemed rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he was actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gave him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.
  9. Johnson rallied for school choice advocates and never rallied with public school teachers. In fact, on May 16th, 2018 he left town. On May 1st, 2019, he never met with teachers.
  10. Johnson had such an acrimonious relationship with the state board that three of them resigned their posts before the expiration of their terms so a governor from the other political party could appoint members to oppose the agenda of the people enabling Johnson.
  11. Johnson bought 6 million dollars worth of iPads for some teachers. They never requested them. And the money came from where?
  12. Johnson supported both the extensions and renewed investment of two failed initiatives: Read to Achieve and the NC Virtual Charter Schools.
  13. Johnson championed the Innovative School District which to date has one school. One. And will now have its third superintendent. And the second principal.
  14. Johnson has set up a personal website to act like a website for information about his job and initiative, but really looks more like a campaign website. And he used a hurricane as the reason for doing it.
  15. Johnson has used questionnaires and surveys to literally gather information that was already known. In fact, just this past week, he told us that teachers and parents do not like all of this testing.
  16. Johnson hosted Jeb Bush in the summer of 2018. Jeb Bush is a leading privatization champion of the public school systemics in the nation.
  17. Johnson said he would eat doughnuts and run a mile or two for us. Doughnuts.
  18. Johnson held a private dinner to make announcements about public education in February of 2018. He launched his #NC2030 initiative. Not really been talked about since.
  19. Johnson used a for-profit company to “allow” teachers to get “supplies” for the new school year. Class Wallet – this will hurt local districts because now things can not be bought in bulk and have to be purchased through more laborious channels.
  20. Johnson has championed Read to Achieve. It is a failed initiative – not because of the vendors, but because of its design and implementation.
  21. Johnson unilaterally decided to sign a contract with iStation. And he still hasn’t come clean about all of that.

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Our State Superintendent’s Spending Habits Should Be Investigated – 3 Specific Cases And They All Relate To One Initiative

CASE #1

Remember that time in March of 2018 when Mark Johnson all of a sudden distributed $200 to each elementary reading teacher in the state?

As reported by Liz Bell of EdNC.org at the time:

The Department of Public Instruction is distributing a total of $4.8 million from funds allocated by the state in 2016 as part of its Read to Achieve initiative for “literacy support” in early grades. Johnson, in his time as superintendent, has emphasized the importance of reading proficiency and early literacy education().

Yes, this seemed like good news. But it seemed rather little when looking at the bigger picture. And it seemed a little empty in the bigger conversation. In fact, it looked more like a publicity stunt.

That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 is something that Johnson seemed to want to get credit for.

CASE #2

Remember the iPads?

Last August, right after a slew of positional layoffs at DPI, Mark Johnson made the improbable announcement of a six million dollar purchase of iPads.

How that money was obtained and how it was immediately spent on Apple products has never really been revealed.

From Travis Fain at WRAL last August 7th:

Reading teachers across the state, from kindergarten to third grade, will get computer tablets from the state this school year in an effort to track and improve student reading.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced the plan Tuesday morning, holding up an iPad for the media, the governor and other members of North Carolina’s Council of State. Johnson’s office put the statewide pricetag for the devices at about $6 million.

There was also a video attached to the story. Take a look at it. Judge for yourself.

Apparently that money came from a “discovered” account of unused funds that DPI had from years past. Johnson claims that it is money that previous DPI officials just sat on. Dr. June Atkinson said differently in this piece from NC Policy Watch that Fain cites within his report.

North Carolina’s former public school superintendent June Atkinson says the state’s current K-12 leader “misled” the public when he blasted the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) last month over $15 million in unspent Read to Achieve dollars.

Atkinson criticized Superintendent Mark Johnson in recent interviews with Policy Watch, nearly a month after Johnson slammed the K-12 bureaucracy for “disturbing” spending practices, including its alleged failure to dole out state cash in 2015 and 2016 intended to boost elementary reading proficiency.

“Mark does not understand or has not in all candor or transparency pointed out that a substantial amount of that unspent money would be a direct result of (local) school districts not using the dollars,” says Atkinson.

CASE #3

And now we have the iStation situation – a unilateral decision to award a contract to a vendor not recommended in the selection process.

And there is one link between these three rather surreptitiously conceived “purchases” – Read To Achieve.

So, when is this going to be formally investigated?

 

 

 

166 Pages of Records In a Seven Snapshots – The Released iStation Meeting Notes

When Justin Parmenter published his post on the released iStation meeting notes from DPI through a records request on his blog Notes From the Chalkboard, he made sure to include this graphic as a summation of how the committee actually recommended mClass over iStation.

Last night, WRAL posted its article on the released DPI notes.

After weeks of controversy over North Carolina’s new contract with a K-3 reading test company, State Superintendent Mark Johnson released more than 150 pages of internal documents late Friday in response to numerous public records requests for the information. The records show some of the state education department’s behind-the-scenes discussions about which company should be chosen for the multimillion dollar contract.

Committees of education leaders that reviewed the companies competing for the contract ranked Amplify the highest, followed by Istation, the records show. Despite the majority of committee members recommending Amplify, the state superintendent chose to award the contract to Istation, setting off a weeks-long controversy over the decision.

One can see those documents here.

In the WRAL posting, Kelley Hinchcliffe reported Mark Johnson as saying,

In a statement, Johnson warned that the records he released late Friday are incomplete – more will be released later – and “might not present a full picture of the process.” He said some committee members made “misstatements of facts” that were later clarified and corrected but not updated in the records.

“It is our hope, though, that these public records help to eliminate some of the misinformation,” he wrote.

166 pages seems to be a lot to sift through for some. According to Johnson, these pages are incomplete. But there are seven screenshots that may tell the overall story fairly well.

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Of the six sets of criteria that were used to measure all of the vendors being reviewed, Amplify (mClass) ranked #1 in four of them; iStation ranked #2 in those four that Amplify scored a #1.

iStation did have two #1 rankings – in sets of criteria that Amplify actually ranked last (#4). But there is a catch there on both those #4 rankings by Amplify.

The first is cost. As Johnson has already shown in previous “deals” with iPads, price points can be negotiated. Any LEA administrator can testify that buying resources in bulk or on a wide basis can negate a sticker price that was previously published.

The second dealt with “Vendor Financial Stability”. The reason that Amplify ranked last is that one person could not do a “quick ratio” calculation. But even that person said it should not present a concern. Look at that part a little more closely.

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Again, costs and finances can be negotiated. That’s business.

But it’s this table on page 155 that seems to show a lot of info. That’s a measurement of the strength of the product.

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Those are the scores for the demonstrations for the products. Amplify scored with 33 Yes votes and 0 No votes. iStation had 20 Yes votes and 13 No Votes.

Would be interesting to hear Johnson explain that.

So, Did Anyone Else Get An Unsolicited Email From iStation – On Their Personal Account?

Earlier today, many teachers in North Carolina received an email from Ossa Fisher, the President / COO of iStation through their personal email addresses.

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It says,

In Case You Missed It: What Educators are Saying About Istation

 GREENSBORO, NC – This summer, North Carolina school districts started training with Istation, the new reading diagnostic tool for K-3 students throughout the state. Istation hosted a training session Monday (July 8) in Greensboro, and teachers had high praise for the program.

Educators lauded the program for its ease of use and array of benefits for both the teacher and student.

Below are just some of the thoughts from educators who are seeing the benefits of Istation.

“I feel excited to share with teachers how useful and efficient these tests will be to benefit teachers and students.” – Educator from Montgomery County Schools

“I love both of the reports that were shared today. The summary and priority report will help us provide better instruction for our students.” – Educator from Montgomery County Schools

“The program will allow more instructional time for teachers.” – Educator from Vance County Schools

“This will be another great tool to help us analyze individual student data in order to provide instruction to meet those needs.” – Educator from Montgomery County Schools

“I see a great deal of promise with the program that I didn’t initially – I see less room for teacher error and more transparency with many aspects of the assessment.” – Educator from Durham Public Schools

“Love the fact that readings are recorded and takes away the subjectivity from scoring.” – Educator from Durham Public Schools

Educators will continue training throughout the summer and into the fall, with the official assessment rollout starting next spring.

“We’re glad to see teachers are learning how Istation could be helpful for not just their students, but themselves,” said Ossa Fisher, Istation President and COO. “Istation was designed to make life easier for educators, and to help them do what they do best – teach.”

 For more information and program updates, visit istation.com/northcarolina or Istation NC’s Facebook or Twitter.

So…

Who gave iStation the personal emails of teachers in this state to send this? DPI through Powerschool?

When has a vendor of a product ever had to sell themselves in an email to a group of people who already have to use the product because of a contract?

Why are the testimonials without names and look manufactured?

Why was this email sent in the first place?

Maybe all could be explained with one answer: FEAR.

Fear that iStation knows its contract came about in a surreptitious manner. Fear that so many questions have been asked by teachers, administrators, and superintendents around the state that have not been adequately answered. Fear that iStation may lose in the court of public opinion.

Oh, and you might want to see the this latest post from Justin Parmenter on Notes From the Chalkboard. His request for information about iStation’s selection process was fulfilled by DPI. It’s damning.

 

 

Intentional Lying To Teachers – Go Back And Look At The Original House Budget From April 30th

In the process for setting the state budget, it is customary for the NCGA House to release its version and then the NCGA Senate to release its version. The governor also releases his version – this year it was in March.

And then they spend the rest of the session trying to come to a version that all are willing to sign – that is if there is not a veto-proof majority as it has been for the last few years. In fact, last year in an effort to stave off public discourse, debate, and amendments to the previous biennial budget, Phil Berger and Tim Moore passed the budget through committee.

A veto-proof majority allowed them to go “nuclear” with the budget process.

Tim Moore and Phil Berger may lead different chambers of the NCGA, but that does not mean they do not work together and that is especially seen in the original House budget released this past April 30th, literally right before the May 1st march and rally in Raleigh by teachers and public school advocates.

Look at the highlights as reported by U.S. News and World Report of that proposed budget.

House Republicans said average teacher pay would rise 4.8% this fall under their proposal, with a particular emphasis on the most experienced teachers. In previous years under GOP rule, state budgets have emphasized raising pay for new teachers and later middle-career teachers. But veteran teachers have not fared as well.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore of Wilkes County, a public school teacher, said older teachers in rural areas are retiring because of the trailing salaries, making it harder to recruit replacements. According to Elmore, a 30-year-teacher who currently receives a $52,000 base salary would receive $60,500 in the budget proposal.

The plan will “keep our promise to reward veteran educators who have spent decades in the classroom,” Moore said.

The House budget would restore a 10% increase in pay for holding a master’s degree. It was phased out earlier this decade. The plan also includes the ability for teachers to received $4,000 signing bonuses if they agree to teach in rural and low-wealth districts, Elmore said.

That budget was simply released to try and quell teacher disappointment and disapproval of how both chambers have treated public education in the last eight years.

And that budget proposal included items that Moore & Co. would have never followed through on.

  • Master’s pay?
  • Helping veteran teachers?
  • Helping recruit newer teachers to low-wealth districts and rural counties?

Currently, there is a sustained veto on the budget that was sent to the governor’s desk. If one was to look at that Senate / House budget and compare it to the one released by the House on April 30th, then it is clear that the House leaders never had any intention to fight for the things they were floating to teachers last April.

HouseFullView

Intentional lying.