Wednesday, December 17, 2014

State denies MDE contract for special needs assessments

The Mississippi Department of Education issued the following press release:

For Immediate Release: December 17, 2014

Teaching and Assessment System for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities Denied by State Personal Service Contract Review Board

JACKSON, Miss. – For the second time in three months, the Personal Service Contract Review Board (PSCRB) has failed to approve a contract submitted by the Mississippi Department of Education that met state requirements. 

The MDE was informed on Tuesday that its $995,920 multi-year contract with the University of Kansas Center for Research to deliver the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) comprehensive system of instruction and assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities would be denied. 

“Teachers are going to be massively upset because their students will miss out on a learning and assessment opportunity they’ve never had before,” said Gretchen Cagle, state director of special education. “DLM is the only system of its kind that has been specifically designed for this population of students. The DLM gives teachers guidance about how to teach, it assesses student learning, and it gives teachers feedback about how to help students continue to make progress.”

Students with significant cognitive disabilities include children with autism, traumatic brain injury, intellectual disability, and other health impairments. The DLM is accessible to students with hearing or visual disabilities, as well as those with neuromuscular, orthopedic, or other motor disabilities.  

“Once again, the actions of the PSCRB will have a direct and negative effect on teachers and students,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Not only will our most vulnerable population of students be denied the opportunity to have a meaningful assessment, but state resources will be wasted.”

The DLM system costs less than $100 per student. The previous cost of assessing students with significant cognitive disabilities was $375 per student. 

Along with their general education peers, students with significant cognitive disabilities are required by state and federal law to be assessed starting in the 2014-2015 school year on tests aligned with Mississippi’s College- and Career-Ready standards. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act require an alternate assessment be provided for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  

The MDE sought competitive proposals in September 2014 for assessments developed for this student population. In October 2014, the State Board of Education approved the MDE’s contract with University of Kansas Center for Research to administer these assessments.
The contract was then submitted to the PSCRB for approval at its November 18, 2014 meeting. During this meeting, the PSCRB decided to delay approval until it sought clarification from the Office of the Attorney General regarding making an exception to two contract clauses.  

The Office of the Attorney General had already informed the PSCRB on November 14, 2014 that Mississippi law would not be violated by approving the exceptions requested and the PSCRB rules provide for the granting of exceptions to its regulations.

After repeated inquiries, the PSCRB informed the MDE late on December 12, 2014 that it would deny the DLM contract during PSCRB’s December 16, 2014 meeting. 

This denial is the second time in three months that the PSCRB would not approve an assessment contract. In September 2014, PSCRB denied the MDE’s contract with NCS Pearson Inc. to administer statewide assessments. That action led the MDE to secure an emergency contract, which is limited to one year.  

“I am saddened to hear that Mississippi students will not be able to participate in DLM.  I had high hopes for the instructional opportunities it would have provided for students with significant cognitive disabilities,” said Pam Dollar of the Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center.


Anonymous said...

More meddling by the Governor?

Sideliner said...

The governor needs to 'meddle'. If somebody doesn't constrain these spending idiots, we will be ten feet under water in all these useless contracts. An employee at the State Department Education has their job for two reasons: (1) They could not perform in the classroom, and (2) They justify their existence by writing grant applications for this kind of bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I think some members of the Personal Service Contract Review Board could have benefited first-hand from the DLM instruction. So this was actually an incredibly selfless act on their part--giving up access to a service they desperately need. In no way was this a narrow-minded, self-guided political statement.

Anonymous said...

How is it that this contract gets denied and MDE was able to renew their contract with XAP corp for a few million to provide schools with an online assessment that is pretty much a replica of the Department of Labor's O-Net-which is free.

Anonymous said...

Well connected Republicans get state contracts. Oversight? Zero. Special needs children in public schools could benefit from what sounds like a fiscally sound (as in low cost to benefit ratio) contract? The fiscal hawks swoop in. MDE's mistake is they didn't run this contract through Frontier Strategies, with FS taking a healthy cut. Then it would have been approved.

Anonymous said...

Man this Wright lady is something else. Is she going to send a press release every time she doesn't get her way.

Back Row said...

Having read the article twice, here is the one and only sentence that jumps off the page at me.

"After repeated inquiries, the PSCRB informed the MDE late on December 12, 2014 that it would deny the DLM contract during PSCRB’s December 16, 2014 meeting."

Here's what that means to me. See if you agree: The oversight group (with authority to deny, attempted numerous times to confer with MDE and MDE did not cooperate.

That MDE 'tower' is one arrogant bunch of people and anybody remotely associated with education in this state knows it. They operate in relative autonomy but are just now finding out that they do not have a free ticket to ride. The people of this state, through their elected representives, have a say in these matters and they don't like being questioned, denied or redressed.

The head of the MDE shopped her resume out to fifteen states looking for this job and we hired her (for some reason). The Wright woman is the wrong woman.

Anonymous said...

Cagle said "...massively upset..." for something they've never received? Save the drama for your momma. Sounds like she may need some of these services. I agree with the comment about Frontier folks. Next month, get Josh & them involved (by "involved" I mean give them 35% cut for doing nothing and by "nothing" we all know it means giving Phil his 20% cut) and watch how quickly it sails through! Everyone freaked out about Epps. This happens every single day with Phil and his crooked cronies. We all need to get out & vote for a change next year! Please don't let this crook continue.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the same board that approved Epps' No-Bid contracts with Cecil? AND doesn't Rick McCarty sit on this board? Dig a little deeper folks...

Anonymous said...

@Back Row, you're reading it backwards. It reads that MDE made multiple inquiries as to the status of the application and then PSCRB finally bothered getting back with MDE to inform them that they were going to deny the application.

Anonymous said...

Here are all the members of the Board, who I believe are directly appointed by the governor.
Deanne Mosley, Chair, Mississippi State Personnel Board

Commissioner, Department of Corrections

Designee: Rick McCarty, Vice Chair

Dr. Sam Polles, Executive Director, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks

Designee: Michael Bolden

Gary Rikard, Executive Director, Department of Environmental Quality

Designee: Terri Torrence

Kevin Upchurch, Executive Director, Department of Finance and Administration

Designee: Monica Ritchie

Syntaxically said...

I'm not so sure it's being read backwards. I suppose it can be read either way; however, using acceptable sentence structure, since the oversight board, in this sentence, follows 'repeated inquiries', it seems that the board made the repeated inquiries. Surely these education people would follow sentence structure rules.

'After repeated attempts, Felicia jumped the rope and surprised the girls holding the rope.' That indicates Felicia made the attempts rather than the girls holding the rope.

Anonymous said...

Folks, if you read the article you see that if they would have approved the contract it saves the state $275 per student.

Anonymous said...

Some posters are calling this an "article." Note that is a press release from MDE, telling their side of the story. Read it with that in mind.

I don't know enough about this issue to lean one way or the other. It would be interesting to get the PSCRB take.

Functional Illiterates Run MDE said...

1:43; You obviously believe if you read something on the internet it MUST be true. This is a 'report' from the education tower by people employed there. What makes you believe their figure of $275 savings per student is accurate? And where is your evidence that disapproval of the contract will cost that much more per pupil? Go review your PERS investment.

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