Education

Istation has agreed to work for free until legal issues over contract are resolved

State Superintendent Mark Johnson

Istation, the vendor awarded the state’s $8.3 million K-3 reading diagnostic contract, has agreed to work for free until the legal questions over the award are answered.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the details of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between his office and Istation on Tuesday.

“The MOA I signed today will facilitate Istation continuing their efforts at no additional costs to taxpayers while also respecting the improper stay irresponsibly put in place by DIT [N.C. Department of Information Technology] lawyers last week,” Johnson said in a statement.

The MOA was adopted in response to a stay issued last week by DIT halting implementation of the controversial reading assessment tool pending its review of the process used to award the contract to Istation.

The stay left school districts uncertain about whether to continue using the program that replaced Amplify’s mClass reading diagnostic tool. Two of the state’s largest school districts – Wake County Public Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – will stop using Istation until DIT renders a decision on the contract award.

Amplify challenged the contract award to Istation but denied the appeal. The firm then asked DIT to step in to help resolve the complaint.

Ossa Fisher, president and COO of Istation issued this statement about the firm’s decision to work without pay.

“Istation is committed to continuing the important work we began this summer, especially now that the school year has begun,” Fisher said. “While stirring fear, uncertainty, and doubt continues to be the strategy of the losing vendor [Amplify], we will continue to uphold our commitment to North Carolina: helping students across the state develop critical grade level reading skills.”

Maggie Bizell, a spokeswoman for DIT, said the department does not comment on ongoing legal matters.

Meanwhile, Johnson said Istation has already trained thousands of teachers on the new system and onboarded almost 400,000 students. He said thousands of students have already used Istation in their classrooms.

Johnson also continued his attack on the DIT, contending the stay issued by the department “ignored the basic concept of due process” and violated DIT’s rules and processes.

“The only party to this challenge that was heard by DIT was the losing vendor as DPI was not given its proper chance to respond before DIT lawyers put a legally-suspect stay in place.” Johnson said. “While having found plenty of time to respond to the press, DIT has refused to respond to repeated questions from DPI.”

Teachers across North Carolina have been critical of the switch from mClass to Istation.

Many of them have also questioned the process by which the contract was awarded, contending Johnson ignored the recommendations of an evaluation committee that ranked mClass over Istation.

Johnson claims the process was tainted. He said some committee members breached confidentiality on the procurement process and were biased in ways that tilted the evaluation in favor of Amplify.

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