Johnson Denies Appeal: “IStation is the best reading diagnostic tool for North Carolina educators, students and parents.”

Friday news dump comes just two days after Democratic Senators submitted a letter to Senator Berger requesting the creation of select committee to review the DPI’s procurement process.

Late Friday afternoon, North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the denial of Amplify’s appeal regarding the decision to award the K-3 reading diagnostic tool to IStation. The Friday news dump comes just two days after Democratic Senators submitted a letter to Senator Berger requesting the creation of a select committee to review DPI’s procurement process.

The released letter begins with an overview, but the real fun starts when looking at the supposed “misstatements of facts.” What caught my eye right away was the claim on page 10 that “Istation is a valid dyslexia screener.” This is despite the fact that Justin Parmenter in a post here, noticed that, “The team that chose Istation specifically referred to the program’s lack of a separate dyslexia component as a weakness of the program (while also holding up Amplify’s dyslexia component as a strength of mClass).” Dr. Chelsea M. Bartel backs this up, “Even if we set aside the concern that identification/matching is a lower-level skill than asking students to produce sounds and words on their own, there are  still glaring concerns regarding Istation’s ability to effectively screen all areas involved in dyslexia.”

In saying that IStation is indeed a valid dyslexia screener, Johnson says that, ” In a telephonic interview of Dr. Joseph Torgesen, one of the top experts in the field of dyslexia, conducted on July 12, 2019, he stated: “I consider this to be as good a screener as any I know of.” “

The problem? Dr. Torgesen has worked for IStation, as an author on Istation’s Early Reading assessment. Could Mark Johnson not find an independent expert on dyslexia? This is just another red flag in this entire process.

The next red flag comes on page 11, where Johnson claims this is a misstatement, “Screen-based assessments are not developmentally appropriate for Kindergarteners and struggling learners.” As an educator who on the first day of school this year, as a third year teacher, will have more classroom experience then our superintendent I was interested in this. I have personally noticed that my students do better on assessments given on paper than they do on screens.

But I digress, Johnson cites, “a recent study of kindergarten students, Putnam (2016) found the level of teacher literacy support with the use of Istation had a statistically significant effect on early literacy achievement” Great! Right? Well…. Parmenter again on this study, “At the end of a study in a section titled “Implications for use of Istation in early literacy education,” Dr. Putnam acknowledges that technology is often seen as a quick fix for literacy problems and calls for more independent research so that it can be incorporated into early childhood classrooms in a way that is healthy for students.”

There will likely be longer analysis of this decision and I highly encourage you to keep an eye out for analysis from Parmenter, Stu Egan, as well as anything from Dr. Bartel.

I fully expect Amplify to appeal to the decision and we will see whether or not Senator Berger will create a committee to analyze the procurement process.

Here are the links for yourself:
Final Decision

The Istation Decision Smells Worse

Superintendent Mark Johnson needs to resign

Superintendent Mark Johnson unilaterally signed a contract with Istation to be the new Read to Achieve K-3 reading diagnostic. He disbanded a committee tasked with making the recommendation. No educators were involved in the decision.

As educators, we can smell BS from a mile away and it was later determined that Istation used the same lobbyist as ClassWallet. It was also determined that this lobbyist has also heavily donated to politicians in the North Carolina Republican Party.

I realize at this point that I’m restating information that a lot of people know already thanks to people like Justin Parmenter, Chelsea Bartel, Amy Jablonski, and Stu Egan. It’s just hard to fathom how terrible this decision smells. Money and politics never smell good, but it smells even worse when it involves the lives of our youngest students.

Amy Jablonski was a member of the committee that was disbanded so she has the knowledge of how that went down. Chelsea Bartel and Justin Parmenter were analyzing the information that DPI provided due to numerous freedom of information act requests.

Istation’s response? Silence them with cease and desist orders. Everything that was said was based on information witnessed in person or by citing the documents that DPI released.

If Istation thought that this would help their public relations campaign to force their product down the throat of students and educators, they’re sorely mistaken.

In a twisted sort of way, this whole saga is kind of funny really. Many educators were not the biggest fans of mClass, now, they will take it back in a heartbeat.

With all of this being out in the open, we are far past the point where Superintendent Mark Johnson needs to resign. Educators, and parents, across the state do not trust him or his ability to leader our public school students. Our students deserve better. They deserve better than Mark Johnson.