A hearing to determine whether to lift stays preventing the use of the Istation reading assessment tools in North Carolina classrooms has been set for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., in Wake County Superior Court.
Judge Mary Ann Tally of Fayetteville set the hearing for Tuesday so that she can read court documents to become familiar with the controversial case that dates to June when State Superintendent Mark Johnson awarded the state’s $8.3 million K-3 reading assessment contract to Istation.
Last month, a different Wake County Superior Court judge ruled that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI), students and teachers would be “irreparably harmed” if DIT stay orders remain in place.
The stays were ordered by the N.C. Department of Information Technology (DIT). In August, the DIT granted Istation competitor Amplify a temporary stay against the use of the Istation reading assessment tool after Amplify complained about the contract award.
Jonathan Shaw, the chief counsel for DIT, upheld the stay in December, contending that the “evidence and arguments of record” are sufficient to indicate that DPI failed to comply with state law and information technology procurement rules and “jeopardized the integrity and fairness of the procurement process.”
Johnson has claimed that the procurement process was tainted. He contends, among other things, that some committee members breached confidentiality and were biased in ways that tilted the evaluation in favor of Amplify and its mClass reading assessment tool, which was previously used by the state.
Many teachers have been critical of the switch from mClass to Istation. They have questioned the procurement process and contend Johnson ignored the recommendations of an evaluation committee that ranked mClass over Istation.
The reading diagnostic tool is a companion to the state’s signature education program, “Read to Achieve,” which was launched in 2013 to ensure every student reads at or above grade level by the end of third grade.
The results haven’t been great even as North Carolina has spent $150 million on the initiative. More than half of the state’s children in K-3 are still not reading at grade level.
Istation has been training teachers to use the reading diagnostic tool for free. It said last month that more than 180,000 North Carolina students in grades K-3 have been assessed using its reading diagnostic tool.