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New literacy assessment vendor Istation defends its platform, calls Amplify’s protest ‘frivolous’

Istation, the literacy assessment vendor Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson chose for K-3 classrooms across the state in June, is defending itself after claims that the state’s decision-making process was illegitimate and the platform is unfit for students’ needs. 

Amplify, one of the vendors that lost the RFP (request for proposal) process and the vendor the state has used since 2010, filed a protest letter Monday night. Its letter said Istation’s online assessment tool fails to meet requirements in state law and in the state’s RFP, as well as being developmentally inappropriate for young children. Istation President and COO Ossa Fisher released a statement today calling the letter “frivolous” and “without any substantial basis or merit.” Fisher also said the letter broke the rules of the contract selection process. Fisher’s full statement is below.

“Istation believes Amplify has violated the contract selection process by filing a frivolous protest without any substantial basis or merit – self-admittedly not grounded in facts. Their purpose is solely to cause unnecessary delay in the contract awarded to Istation. The false and misleading statements that Amplify is publicly distributing are intended to harass and cause harm to our company after we were awarded the contract – fair and square – based on our product offerings and proven track record working with millions of students across the country. 

But they cannot fight the numbers – after six years in North Carolina under Amplify, the data shows that North Carolina students are no better off than they were before Amplify. We urge state leaders to continue to move in the positive direction for students and deny Amplify’s frivolous and harmful request to suspend the contract and to deny them a protest hearing that has no merit and is not based on substantiating facts.

When state leaders asked for a different direction, we answered the call because we believed then – and now – that we are the best solution for North Carolina’s early readers. Like we have in other states, we are eager to roll up our sleeves and work with teachers and parents to deliver results for North Carolina’s students.”

Protest filed over state superintendent’s Istation pick

Amplify requested that the state suspend the contract with Istation until the appeals process is complete. Kay Moffett, Amplify’s Chief Marketing Officer, said the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has 10 days to decide whether or not to hold a protest meeting. “If that is rejected, Amplify may seek a hearing before the North Carolina Department of Information Technology,” Moffett said in an email. 

The statement above urges the state to deny the protest meeting and contract suspension. 

In response to Istation’s above release, Amplify CEO Larry Berger said in a statement: “We stand behind our protest letter and look forward to meeting with DPI to discuss our concerns about the flawed procurement.”

Berger said part of the reason they filed a formal protest was because the RFP process was cancelled twice, most recently in February.

Graham Wilson, DPI spokesperson, said the following regarding the cancellations: “The RFPs were cancelled during the evaluation phases due to actions that jeopardized the legality of the procurement and a lack of consensus.” 

The consensus of the evaluation team picking the vendor was another point that has played out over the last week, with former DPI employee Amy Jablonski claiming that the team did come forward with a clear recommendation: stick with Amplify. Jablonski left the department in December and is now running against Johnson for state superintendent. 

Wilson said the State Board of Education also approved the Istation pick. 

“State purchases require strict processes and legal parameters, which were followed and will continue to be followed. In addition, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the product. After a fair weighing of all factors of the available products, Istation was deemed to be the best choice.”

The entirety of Istation’s statement, which includes background information on the situation, is below.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.