N.C. reading software decision triggers protest
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
A reading assessment company has filed a letter of protest with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, asking it to reconsider its choice of K-3 reading software for state public schools.
Amplify Education Inc., the makers of mClass, asked the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to “suspend or terminate” its June 7 contract with Istation.
In its Monday letter, the company said it was “concerned” the Department of Public Instruction chose to stop using mClass in favor of Istation even though “DPI’s evaluation committee concluded as far back as Dec. 2018 that Istation’s product was inferior, did not meet the state’s mandatory standards and that Amplify should have been awarded this contract.”
Included with Amplify’s filing was a Facebook post by Amy Jablonski, the Department of Public Instruction’s former director of Integrated Academic and Behavior Systems division. She stated that she was a member of the team tasked with reviewing four products, including mClass and Istation, and recommending one to use for K-3 reading instruction across the state.
Jablonski, who is running for state superintendent of schools, wrote that the decision to use Istation was “against the advice that was provided.”
“This is not what our general education or special education teachers wanted,” she wrote on June 9, two days after the decision was announced. “This is not what our school psychologists and researchers wanted. This is not what our large or small districts wanted. This is not what our (English Language Learners) teachers wanted.”
On Tuesday, Department of Public Instruction spokesperson Graham Wilson defended the department’s decision, which he wrote was “unanimously approved” by the state board of education.
“State purchases require strict processes and legal parameters, which were followed and will continue to be followed,” Wilson wrote. “After a fair weighing of all factors of the available products, Istation was deemed to be the best choice.”
Istation’s contract is $2.8 million per year, or $8.3 million over three years, according to DPI. Amplify’s current contract is $6.3 million per year.
However, in its letter, Amplify stated it reduced its price when it bid on the contract for the next three years.
“Amplify’s bid on this contract was $3,755,560 a year, which represents more than a 40 percent reduction from prior years,” the company wrote.
The letter also claims that Istation’s assessment software does not meet the legal requirements for dyslexia screening and does not provide sufficient data to allow teachers to modify instruction.
“Under the requirements of the (Request For Procurement), it is clear that Istation’s product should have been disqualified or scored much lower than Amplify’s product by the evaluation committee,” Amplify wrote.
In a statement on Monday, Istation Chief Operating Officer Ossa Fisher said her company was chosen due to its proposal and its results.
“We won the contract based on the merits of our proposal and our proven results working with teachers and millions of students across the country,” she said. “We are actively engaged with educators as we roll out our initial training and implementation. We look forward to working with teachers and administrators during this phase and with students as we enter the new school year.”
Amplify asked to meet with the Department of Public Instruction “as soon as feasible” and requested that Istation’s contract be suspended until the protest is resolved.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the switch from mClass to Istation on June 7, which resulted in several districts having to scrap their K-3 reading plans and reach out for guidance. Pitt County Schools’ original plan was completed in March.
It is not known what effect this letter may have on the adoption of Istation for the 2019-20 school year.