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.