Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Too many retroactive DOE sole-source contracts and other problems with proposals to be voted on tonight

Patrick Sullivan and Leonie Haimson of the Citizens Contracts Oversight Committee provided the following comments to the members of the Panel for Educational Policy about the list of proposed DOE contracts to be voted on tonight.  If you want to join our committee, please email us at

Retroactive sole-source contracts 

For the contracts to be voted upon March 23 at the PEP, fully half of the proposed contracts (17 of 35) are retroactive -- with some starting as early as last May; which prompts the question what the point of a vote is, if it is held months after the money has been paid and the services delivered. Sole source retroactive contracts for this month include:

Item 6 (page 20) Bard College. Inexplicable why this is retroactive. The relationship with Bard has been in place for years.

Item 7 (page 23) Measure Excellence

Item 11 (page 33) Teachers College professional development for conferences

Item 12 (page 36) Teachers College professional development for writing instruction

Item 13 (page 39) Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative: consulting to develop tests to measure teachers for performance reviews.

Insufficient information on consulting project to rate teachers with student tests

Item 13 (page 39) Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative is a consulting engagement to develop tests to measure teachers for performance reviews. This work is controversial in light of 1) the thorough discrediting of value-added measurement models by the academic community and 2) action to eliminate state tests in rating teachers.  The contract should be presented with more information including the RFP and statement of work.  It should be presented for approval before it's done, not after.

Contracts presented for approval without any prior information

There are eight Head Start or pre-K contracts that have no information: Items 15, 16, 17, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. One (item 16 on page 46) is for "lead teacher incentives". That sounds like something that would require a discussion.  DOE continues to present contracts for approval with no names or amounts reported despite the promise of DOE to reveal this information at least a month ahead of the votes.

Lack of any assessment of quality of services delivered

DOE spends vast amounts of money on professional development -- $70 million has been approved since October of 2105 -- without any assessment of the efficacy of this spending.   This month the requested funding is another $500,000.

For numerous textbook and online program contracts, there are no comparative evaluations of quality or market research as to why these particular vendors were chosen; with less analysis offered than in the detailed description of why a particular vendor for snow tire chains was selected.

Rationale for Bard College funding is unclear

The proposal to pay Bard College nearly a million dollars for additional services to the two Bard High schools, which are both highly selective schools with comparatively few high-needs students, does not appear to be aligned with their Fair Student Funding system.


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