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John White’s PARCC Contract Problems

June 19, 2014

In January 2005, I bought a house in Muncie, Indiana, to remodel.

It was quite the adventure for a number of reasons, one of which was the creative ways that the previous owner managed to dodge making structurally-sound renovations.

For example, the electrical system was in chaos. When the electrician opened up the breaker box, it was half empty. He remarked, “There are not enough breakers here to be running the electricity in this house.”

I understood, for I had discovered some of those ingenious (and dangerous) ways that the electricity had been rigged.

Extension cords abounded. One was used to run the dishwasher.  Another, the electric garage door. A third was stapled beneath the bathroom counter in lieu of a GFCI outlet.

That, my friends, is how Louisiana Superintendent John White does state assessment contracts.

One plugged into another.

On June 18, 2014, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal filed executive orders to investigate both the process and spending associated with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) tests to which Louisiana was connected, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments.

The investigation requires White to produce contracts related to Louisiana’s using PARCC.

Now, in my June 18 post, I note that on April 8, 2014, White told the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee that Louisiana had not contracted with PARCC to purchase assessments, only to develop them.

In other words, no direct contract between the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and PARCC to purchase PARCC.

Know why?

Because White rigged the process.

Big surprise.

Here’s what he did:

He took a 2003 assessment vendor, the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC)– one that had been part of competitive bidding and whose extended time had run out in 2008 but that had been renewed as a no-bid (also called a sole source) contract in July 2011 (under former superintendent Pastorek) through 2015– and he patched PARCC into it.

By definition, a sole source contract implies that only one vendor is able to provide a service. In the case of the 2011 renewal, though it is not fully clear, it seems that DRC had once been used in Louisiana and was being used again since it had already been used and was now providing transitional assessments.

Both the 2008 and 2011 DRC contracts had been amended several times. The two together totaled $114.5 million.

So, John White had in place a sole source contract that he thought he could use as a back door for tying Louisiana into PARCC.

Once the Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR) discovered this patchwork, it decided that it should go beyond examining White’s process for contracting with PARCC to also include investigating the contractual web that DRC appears to be.

OCR Interim Director Pamela Bartfay Rice wrote to White:

I believe it is necessary and appropriate to expand the review mandated by Executive Order No. BJ 2014-7 to include a full review of the contracting process that was utilized for the current DRC contracts and the availability of other potential suppliers…

the assertion that PARCC can be included in the existing contract also directly contradicts the justification for sole source used by LDOE for the contract…

LDOE appears to now be asserting that the existing sole source contract with DRC can be utilized to subcontract with another assessment vendor, PARCC, for future common assessments. The DRC sole source contract and its sole source justification indicate that the DRC contract does not include services related to common assessment for 2014-2015, rather, it is limited to assessments and services up to and through the transition tests…. [Emphasis added.]

In sum, White (in his characteristically creative way) is trying to tie a second assessment contractor (i.e., PARCC) into a previously-existing contract that stated DRC is the only available contractor.

Rice also reminded White that the funds available for PARCC are now suspended.

No money to back that assertion that PARCC will continue as planned.

Uh, oh.

Rice opened White’s breaker box and found it half empty.


Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education


  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Perfect analogy for the tangled web and insufficiency of contracting for the tests. I good crowdsourcing project whould involve a look of at the costs and flows of money to contract for tests.

  2. Derek permalink

    Have you spoken with the people with parcc or drc. Seems as though he was risking a lot of money in hopes of the contract carrying the two vendors. Seems education head can’t do math. Sounds like Gates money coming this way may be on hold also. Let’s see how White behaves during investigation of his office. Probably denial till asked to leave, then gets fed job for being fall guy for Bobby. Might be ahead of myself? All interesting so far. Thanks for keeping up the fight.

  3. Susan Muchmore permalink

    And this didn’t even make my head hurt! Now I get it, or at least part of it. Keep blogging using your analogies; it helps your friend understand this web of deceit.

  4. Sara Wood permalink

    Interesting, thx

  5. TCliff permalink

    Yeah, this business model stuff really is soooo much better than the old way……

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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