#NCED Updates: Leandro Report and DIT rules on reading assessment tool

This edition of NCED updates includes the release of the highly anticipated Leandro report by WestEd and the Dept. of Information Technology (DIT) has ruled on the contract complaint about the new reading assessment tool, Istation.

National Headlines

Student Testing Giant “College Board” Sued for Illegally Collecting & Selling Students’ Data:

“According to the suit, the College Board ramped up these revenues using deceptive practices to market a “Student Search Service” to test takers, falsely making it appear as if the service would assist them in getting into colleges and universities. However, “College Board’s true purpose in obtaining the personal information was to sell it to third party organizations in order to increase its already substantial revenues.”
– Loevy & Loevy, Attorney for the Plaintiff
Read the full complaint against The College Board.

Quick NC Hits

Rep. Craig Horn has announced he will run for State Superintendent. He joins a packed field of 5 Democrats (so far) including Wake County School Board member Keith Sutton.

Republican Cathy Truitt, chancellor of WGU North Carolina and former McCrory Education adviser,  has also said she is interested in running for superintendent.

Supt. Mark Johnson has announced he is not running again for the reelection of his current role and will instead be running for Lt. Governor.

This kind of action by the CSAB is a shot across the school choice bow:

The board of directors of Carolina Royal Academy was asked Tuesday to explain the core knowledge curriculum that it plans to use. After an awkward pause, John Norwood, chairman of Carolina Royal’s board, said their role is to govern the school and hire the correct head of school to choose the staff to implement the curriculum.

That answer didn’t sit well with the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board, which recommended that the school not get state approval. (N&O)

Norwood should have a basic understanding of the curriculum, but he’s correct in response. School Choice and Charter advocates should be concerned CSAB recommended rejection just off of Norwood’s answer.

#1 – Leandro Report

The long-awaited Leandro report compiled by Wes Ed came out this week. I’ve started a Leandro repository page for the inevitable debates to come which includes the report and subreports. This page has also been added to the top menu of the blog.

There will be a lot of talk about this after the holidays once the 300-page report and its dozen or so subreports have been reviewed and digested.  Prepare yourselves for hot takes from Hell. From what I’ve read of it so far, it is predictable stuff and, in some areas, confusing and vague.  It would be nice to know who paid for this and how much.

A good place to start: WestEd, the Courts, and the State Constitution

If anyone placed bets the report would ask for a ridiculous increase in spending, they can start collecting. Carolina Journal reported:

One attention-grabbing conclusion: The state would need to spend an extra $860 million over the next eight years just on students who “are projected to achieve average annual, grade-level growth.” Students in schools that are not currently meeting proficiency targets would need more.

[…]

Based on WestEd’s calculations, the state spends $8.29 billion yearly on public schools. Local school districts and federal funds provide an additional $3.87 billion a year.

The report cites $8.6 billion as the total state spending on K-12 and early childhood education in the 2018-19 budget year.

WestEd says $8.6 billion is not enough and more money will fix everything. But history has shown us that as education spending has increased, achievement has stagnated and fallen. It’s not the spending, it is how you spend it. Government at any level is an Olympic champion at spending, but the absolute worst at spending wisely.

By far my favorite quote in the article is this one, because I couldn’t have said it better myself:

“Where’s the evidence that this $800 million to $2 billion per year in spending, not just over eight years, but in perpetuity, would actually accomplish the stated goal of a sound basic education for all?” asked Joe Coletti, senior fellow at JLF.

Governor Cooper and Democrats at the state and federal level want to see charters and vouchers gone. This is not conjecture. If can make charters state budget dependent, they can make that funding go away.

Back in August, I mused that Governor Cooper’s shady Education Commission was maneuvering to inject school choice into Leandro. I said there were a few possible paths that could take:

1) Cooper and his commission use Leandro to force the courts to put a cap on the creation of more charter schools and/or change their funding. If it’s the latter, this commission should be careful what it wishes for.

2) the first option backfires and the courts see charters as providing a much-needed alternative to traditional district schools and open the flood gates to expand them further.

So here comes the “I told you so.”

The governor’s shady commission’s desire to control charter schools by putting control of their funding as a state-controlled issue made it into WestEd’s report. The John Locke Foundation’s Dr. Terry Stoops spotted it straight away:

“WestEd provides little research justification for their recommendation that the state assume sole responsibility for funding public charter schools. The recommendation seems to be included to appease school districts, which frequently complain about competition from charters,” said Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at JLF.

“Rather than seeing charter schools as part of the solution, WestEd researchers treat them as novelties that impede the work of school districts.”

This point is underscored in a second Carolina Journal article, Chatter about funding may drown out other important findings from Leandro report.

“Republican lawmakers, in particular, may be surprised to find that some of the WestEd recommendations that are consistent with their education reform agenda. A number of other recommendations may be incorporated into existing efforts easily.”

Related: Spending per pupil is the wrong metric

#2 – DIT ruling throws the state’s reading assessment tool use into chaos

The DIT officer hearing the case filed by Amplify Education is Jonathan Shaw and he has upheld the stay blocking awarding of Istation contract.

Shaw said there are questions about how the Dept. of Instruction handled the evaluation and procurement process.

“There is sufficient information before the undersigned presented in the parties’ filings to indicate that NCDPI not only changed the evaluation criteria, but altered the ranking of the importance of remaining criteria in a way that benefited Istation,” DIT’s order reads.

Amplify also wanted DIT to block Istation from being used, but Shaw didn’t go that far.

Supt. Mark Johnson is super-unhappy with Mr. Shaw.

“Jonathan Shaw of NC DIT can point to nothing to back up clear factual errors he made today in his ruling,” said Johnson in a press release. “Shaw and DIT have not in any way, shape, or form followed the legal standard of review for ordering a stay. The stay they put in place in August was inappropriate based on the simple fact alone that they never even gave DPI or other parties the chance to respond.”

Johnson said in the statement that “DIT is taking it to the next level by saying things that are simply not true” and there are too many mistakes to list all of them, but he names two:

Shaw says DPI did not inform the vendors of the evaluation criteria. The fact is that both vendors were provided the evaluation criteria in a letter that DPI drafted with guidance from DIT staff. The vendors’ proposals based on those criteria went through a fair evaluation process guided by DIT staff.

Shaw says that DPI only placed members on the negotiation evaluation committee who had previously voted for Istation, but half of the members of that final committee had never even voted in the previous two RFPs. Also, the votes were conducted anonymously. The only tally Shaw has on the votes is the leaked confidential information from a former DPI employee who coordinated with Amplify on their protest.

Johnson also said Shaw was “adding insult to injury with blatant mistakes that he is using to justify more bad decisions.”

Johnson recently announced he is going to run for Lt. Governor instead of for re-election.

DIT’s exhibits and ruling:

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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  1. Pingback: #NCED Updates: Reading Assessment tool battle continues, National and School Choice headlines | LL1885

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