Louisiana “Annual Tests” Tied Up in the New Mexico Courts?
June 18, 2014, was an interesting day in Louisiana politics and education. (I realize these two are now one and the same, but humor me.)
One event of June 18 was Governor Bobby Jindal’s decision to suspend Louisiana’s involvement in PARCC because Louisiana State Superintendent John White, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), and the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) all failed to follow proper contractual procurement of Louisiana’s so-called “contract” with the Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC) tests associated with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Jindal suspended money to be paid to PARCC for the 2014-15 tests and required that proper bidding be followed in procuring bids for the next Louisiana assessment contract.
He also charged LDOE and BESE to follow proper bidding for Louisiana assessments, which means properly advertising requests for proposals (RFP) so that testing companies might competitively bid for Louisiana’s assessment contract.
Now, here’s what is funny:
June 18, 2014, also happened to be an important date in the case involving Pearson, the American Institute of Research (AIR), and PARCC.
Allow me to offer some background:
In May 2014, AIR filed a suit in New Mexico state court against PARCC for allegedly tailoring its RFP in favor of education and testing giant, Pearson.
On May 27, 2014, New Mexico State Judge Sarah Singleton granted AIR’s petition that the RFP process awarding Pearson the PARCC contract be reconsidered, and in the meantime, she suspended Pearson’s proceeding with the PARCC contract:
…Judge Sarah Singleton put a hold on the contract, citing that AIR had indeed filed its protest in a timely fashion.
“They should not have relied on the easy canard of untimeliness,” Singleton said during the May 27 hearing in Santa Fe according to transcripts. “So for those reasons, the appeal is granted. This case is remanded with instructions to delay any further processing of the contract until this protest can be timely heard and determined on its merits.”
When asked by counsel for the State if the [Pearson-PARCC] contract could go forward in the meantime, Singleton denied the request. [Emphasis added.]
Singleton stopped Pearson’s development of PARCC assessments until the New Mexico state purchasing agent could formally consider the matter:
The parties at odds over a major contract to perform testing aligned with the Common Core State Standards have been given until June 18 to make their case in writing to New Mexico state officials charged with ruling on the dispute.
In a letter sent Monday (June 2, 2014), the state purchasing agent for New Mexico, Lawrence O. Maxwell, said by that date (June 18) he will review the merits of a protest filed by the American Institutes for Research over a broad, common-core contract awarded to Pearson. …
In his letter, Maxwell said that officials at Pearson and New Mexico’s department of education, would be given the right to respond to the AIR’s protest by June 18. AIR would then have one week after that to respond to what the other two entities have to say.
There won’t be a public hearing on the case, Maxwell said. Instead, “the decision of the state purchasing agent will be based entirely on the written record.” [Emphasis added.]
So, on June 18– the date that Jindal suspended Louisiana’s dealings with PARCC– Pearson’s development of PARCC assessments was also suspended pending decisions regarding PARCC’s RFP.
June 18 has come and gone; the week following has also come and gone with no formal word yet regarding Maxwell’s decision. However, here is where Maxwell’s decision might lead:
New Mexico state law says that once a decision is made by the state procurement agent or office, a party can appeal that decision in the courts. So the battle over the PARCC contract could be a fairly protracted one, if all the parties in play pursue all of their options. [Emphasis added.]
In short, the issue of PARCC development might not be resolved in time to develop PARCC. We’ll see.
Let’s bring home the irony, folks:
Even as White and BESE President Chas Roemer are both pushing for PARCC, PARCC development remains suspended upon order of the New Mexico courts.
Perhaps Roemer should add another agenda item to the July 1, 2014, BESE meeting.
I look forward to hearing Roemer and White explain how Louisiana’s “annual tests” (he doesn’t like to say, “PARCC”) are tied up in the New Mexico court system.
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