STATE TESTING DEAL RIFE WITH ALLEGATIONS OF CRONYISM, BUREAUCRATIC MEDDLING
|| By FITSNEWS || This website has written extensively on the so-called “accountability” measures in place in the government-run school system.
To read our latest report on this ongoing, costly and totally ineffective debacle … click here.
Anyway, the Palmetto State’s ongoing effort to give the illusion of academic progress (where none actually exists) is drawing some scrutiny this week. Specifically, a controversial $58.5 million contract for annual academic assessments is being hotly contested – with all sorts of allegations flying.
For years this business has gone to a politically connected company called Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) – which was at the heart of the 2009 “dumbing down” of state assessments.
DRC is the S.C. Department of Education (SCSDE)’s longtime testing partner. In fact within the SCSDE, the agency’s director of assessments Liz Jones has been working with the company for the last two decades.
Obviously in a market-based education system such a lengthy partnership would have never lasted. Why not? Because as we’ve repeatedly documented, South Carolina’s tests were (and still are) crap.
And in a free market system, crappy results would have resulted in changes being made … years ago.
Last September – after lawmakers made extensive changes to the way government bids out these contracts (removing SCSDE’s exclusive control) – Iowa-based ACT won a bid to administer these assessments. Needless to say, the status quo didn’t like losing its multi-million dollar empire one bit.
DRC appealed the award and ultimately got it overturned on a technicality – with ACT being given a one-year deal to implement the state’s tests in anticipation of a “do-over” bid being sent out this summer.
So … who’s going to win that “do-over” bid?
Leaving nothing to chance, SCSDE – with Jones leading the way – pushed a budget proviso aimed at putting the bureaucracy back in charge of bidding out this contract. Not only that, it prepared a draft request for proposal that our sources say could only be successfully answered by DRC. Additionally, the agency and the company appear to have improperly coordinated on a DRC-funded event involving all district testing coordinators held in Columbia, S.C. last month.
Jones was one of the featured speakers at this event, by the way.
The game is rigged in other words … with the objective being the restoration of the old contract. The return of the failed status quo.
Reformers aren’t happy.
“Serious questions exist about whether adequate steps will be taken to insure that this decision hasn’t already been made, and that South Carolina gets a test that will benefit the students and public and best allow us to measure performance against peers around the country,” one source told FITS.
We agree …
We don’t have a dog in this fight. As we’ve said all along, the only real “accountability” in education is that which is provided by the marketplace – but unfortunately South Carolina lacks such accountability because it’s parental choice program is severely limited.
Nonetheless, it seems wrong to permit any one bureaucrat – particularly one with a clearly demonstrated bias – such undue influence over what is supposed to be a competitive process.