Saturday, June 13, 2020

In the midst of its budget crisis, DOE asks the PEP to approve six million dollars for Pearson



UPDATE 6.18.20: Approval of the contract extension of the Pearson Gifted test has been removed from the PEP agenda for tonight.

Amid the Covid pandemic which will require smaller classes and new health and safety measures,  and despite huge proposed cuts to schools next year, DOE is asking the Panel for Educational Policy to approve six million dollars to be awarded Pearson at its Thursday, June 18 meeting (though the meeting is wrongly dated on the list of proposed contracts as Wed. June 17.)
Of that six million dollars, $1.7 million is for a one -year extension of Pearson's controversial assessment to test four-year-old children for their “giftedness” – a standardized exam which many experts say has little reliability or validity, and is highly correlated with race and class.  
Another $4.8 million is to be awarded Pearson for a one-year extension to its SchoolNET platform, used to administer  interim assessments and report scores.  
The document that lists these contracts, known as the RA for Request for Authorization, reveals that in 2016, DOE asked the NYC  Technology Development Corporation (NYCTDC), to  recommend an alternative, and they recommended that this be outsourced  to another vendor, “as the DOE did not have the internal resources and/or expertise to develop, maintain, and continuously enhance an assessment platform to meet its needs, particularly given the number of external solutions readily available assessment platform to meet the needs for a formative assessment platform.”

At the recommendation of the NYCTDC, DOE released a new RFP for an assessment platform in March 2018, more than two years, ago, with multiple responses from vendors, but apparently even in that space of time they have been unable to settle  on another one – though they say they will come back to the PEP with an alternative proposal sometime in the future; meanwhile, they  say they needed to extend this contract with Pearson for another year.  

Both Pearson proposals include more than two pages of problems with Pearson that DOE found out about the company via a "background check," including 34 investigations for discrimination against its employees on grounds of race, disability, gender, age, etc. and many technical issues with erroneous scoring,  online service disruptions and more.   


At the same time, this list is far from comprehensive, and omits many Pearson scandals,  including the infamous Pineapple passage on the 8th grade ELA exam, which had bewildered and stressed students in several states since 2007, until it finally was exposed as so absurd to be unanswerable in the New York exam in 2012 and removed from scoring.   
Nor does the DOE list mention the fiasco the following year, when Pearson wrongly scored the results of thousands of NYC children on the gifted exam.  
Here's a more complete list of Pearson errors through 2013 , published in the Washington Post, and another through 2016.  I guess DOE contract officers don't know how to use google.
DOE also proposing that the PEP approve a 4 month, $5 million emergency extension for a contract with Prutech that would run from May 14 through August, for various COVID-related tasks including student portal development, although last month, the PEP already approved a $1.8 million emergency contract with  Prutech to go through June 30, which also included student portal development.
Prutech designed the godawful DOE website which is so unusable that it you cannot find the documents you’re looking for through its search function, and the URLs on the website are so difficult to share that I have to download docs like this month's RA, upload them my Class Size Matters site and share that URL for people to be able to find them. 
If people want to email the PEP members about these contracts, their email addresses are to the right and below under Panel for Educational Policy info; you can also attend the PEP meeting remotely via https://learndoe.org/pep/june18 and sign up to speak from 5:30PM until 6:15 PM on that date..

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