News: Quick Takes

DPI files motion to dissolve temporary stay in Istation implementation 

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, pictured here in his office. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, pictured here in his office. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

State Superintendent Mark Johnson is challenging a temporary stay against implementing Istation, the state’s new reading diagnostic tool. 

“I’m the N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction, but I’m also a lawyer. That’s a good thing on weeks like this one,” Johnson said in a news release announcing the motion to dissolve the injunction. 

Johnson claims N.C. Department of Information Technology ignored due process, contradicted state law, and went against agency rules when it filed the injunction.  

On Monday, Aug. 19, DIT granted Amplify’s motion to temporarily stay the implementation of Istation while the dispute over the reading diagnostic contract is heard. But Johnson contends the agency only heard arguments from one side — Amplify — and failed to give DPI time to respond. 

“DIT has thrown this process into chaos, which is unacceptable, careless, and unnecessary,” Johnson said. “We are moving forward at DPI because we owe nothing less than positive change for our students and educators.”

Amplify has sought to overturn the decision ever since Johnson announced the $8.3 million reading diagnostic contract would go to Istation. For years, the state has used Amplify’s mClass to monitor K-3 reading scores, but Johnson in June announced plans to use Istation instead.

The process that resulted in Istation winning the $8.3 million contract has spurred controversy. Critics, including some educators, education activists, and Democrat lawmakers, have said Johnson ignored recommendations made by an evaluation committee to stay with Amplify.

Johnson has argued false statements and biased procedures favoring Amplify marred the evaluation process. He said two application proposals were canceled as a result of unethical actions by members of the evaluation committee. Rather than starting another application process, DPI directly negotiated with Amplify and Istation. Istation won.

Amplify filed a formal protest June 24 challenging the contract award. On July 26, Johnson reaffirmed the decision to award the contract to Istation. Amplify then turned to DIT, which responded by filing a temporary stay against implementing the new reading diagnostic tool. 

A DIT spokesperson, the News & Observer reports, said Istation appealed the order Aug. 21. 

“Istation was legally and appropriately awarded the contract by the Department of Public Instruction in June and we remain confident that our contract will be upheld in the legal process,” Ossa Fisher, president and COO of Istation, said in a news release. 

Fisher said it is evaluating DIT’s temporary stay but hasn’t been asked to “change course” on implementing Istation. 

Larry Berger, Amplify CEO, in a statement says, “Istation must halt its implementation while the proceeding is pending with DIT.”

The confusion comes days before the start of classes for most public schools.