© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Official Says NC Istation Reading Contract Violated Law But Testing Can Continue

A state hearing officer ruled Monday that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction violated the law and jeopardized the integrity of the state procurement process in selecting Istation software to test the reading skills of the state’s youngest students. 

State officials have been locked in a legal battle over the selection of evaluation software since the school year began. That leaves public schools in limbo over how to meet state requirements for tracking K-3 reading skills.

The ruling by hearing officer Jonathan Shaw from the state’s Information Technology department upheld an earlier stayon executing the contract with Istation. But it also said the Texas-based company can continue providing the service at no cost until the legal case is settled.

At issue is the selection process used to choose between the New York company Amplify, which provided teacher-administered testing for the last six years, and Istation, which provides a computerized test of early reading skills. Shaw reported finding “sufficient evidence” that the state changed its criteria during the process and removed members of the evaluation panel who supported Amplify’s mClass product.

"In sum, the evidence and arguments of record presented thus far are sufficient to indicate that NCDPI failed to comply with applicable state law and information technology procurement rules ... and jeopardized the integrity and fairness of the procurement process," Shaw wrote.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson fired back with a press release saying that Shaw made clear factual errors and failed to follow legal standards.

"Shaw has already injured the work of DPI and DIT employees with the incompetence with which he has conducted this review process," Johnson said. "Now, he is adding insult to injury with blatant mistakes that he is using to justify more bad decisions."

A hearing is set for Jan. 30.

Copyright 2019 WFAE

Ann Doss Helms covers education for WFAE. She was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer for 32 years, including 16 years on the education beat. She has repeatedly won first place in education reporting from the North Carolina Press Association and won the 2015 Associated Press Senator Sam Open Government Award for reporting on charter school salaries.