Tuesday, March 13, 2007

best laid plans

Our school, I mean, our state, Oregon, satisfies NCLB requirements with an online test called TESA.

If the kids go to TESA, as of last week, this is what they found.

There is a message:

On January 23, 2007, Vantage Learning terminated its contract with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) because of ODE's failure to pay for past and continued TESA service. Since then, Vantage has continued the TESA service - administering more than 250,000 assessments over and above the contracted amount - in a good-faith effort to help the teachers and students of Oregon...
Go there and read this yourself, they even put a link to a DHL delivery confirmation of termination notice.

Here is the OPB story which aired on Monday March 12 wherein ODE discusses what has happened.

Last week I forwarded J the email from Oregon Department of Education that said there were "vendor issues" and the online tests would end for this year and resume when pencil and paper tests could be gotten out by May.

What is happening is of course the case of "two sides to every story".

The vendor, Vantage Learning, who has created the system that we have been using for the past several years, said there was a contractual issue once they found out that the project would have to go out for Request for Proposal and that they wouldn't automatically be granted the contract renewal. This is a State of Oregon thing that is done to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent in a way that looks closely for the most competitive bidder.

Once Vantage learned they would have to bid again for the same job, the state received invoices in the 7 figures. After that the TESA system began to falter all over the state. When ODE called them about this, they mentioned there were also contractual issues that needed to be resolved.

And when ODE didn't pay up the crazy invoices , TESA limped along in a faulty manner for a month and last week crashed for good. Now the place where all kids used to go to take tests says in so many words "Oregon didn't pay so there are no tests".

So what is at stake here is our compliance with NCLB, a whole LOT of classtime that has been lost, and a huge precedent--here we farmed this out to a private technology vendor and it has resulted rather poorly. Can Vantage do this? I am curious to see how this resolves.

Our school, which covers about 5 blocks square (its enormous) reorganized our whole campus in order to comply with TESA testing. From where I stand, the testing is a burden, though it is necessary. It has been frustrating because getting the technology to test 3000 students in several different areas and still be able to use our computers for learning has been a rather complex knot. Getting absent kids tested, makeups, computer glitches all conspire to make the process less than easy.

My students, recently arrived from other countries, are so overwhelmed by the reading test that even the "A" students click through it and are done with the 70 some odd questions in 15 minutes. This is NCLB.

I wonder about a lawsuit regarding the details of the contract and I predict doom for Vantage Learning, I seriously doubt a judge would rule in favor of the action they took. I think Vantage thought they had Oregon by the short hairs and could pull this off, but it just doesn't work that way. Vantage Learning can't have done anything good to their reputation in this move--what educational facility would want to farm work out to a company that thinks blackmail is a suitable business model?

Woe, WOE to Vantage.

In other news I have an interview at a tiny little school. I visited the place where A will do daycare today and it depressed me to put her in daycare (only 12 times she will have to go between now and summer, but still, every kid had some malady--facial rash, snotty nose, coughing everywhere...) .

I am adjusting all over the place. I never say no to adjusting, but I call it quits when things don't work out. After this daycare thing today I think that maybe part time would be just fine...only problem is there are precious few part time jobs out there...


Zhenya said...

Don't give up, Heather. You'll find that job. Full-time daycare with a stranger just isn't the way to go. I am dealing with part-time daycare right now, and it aint pretty. On the days that I work, I get to pick up my little boy whose face and behavior indicates that his life in daycare is "made of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles[largely]predominating". . The thing about this whole thing is that I don't think changing the provider would ease his suffering. He needs his mommy... and I can't wait til summer.

Adeline said...

Thanks Zhenya, it is nice to hear from you. I hope you like your new home and will be glad when we can see each other again, perhaps spring break?

J said...

Hey, great post buddy. It looks like you covered every ugly angle of this stupid situation. It's unfortunate but most people will hear this on the news and go, "Oh well, not my problem." Right? Not realizing that, depending on the outcome, this can directly impact Oregon's ability to secure federal funding for its schools! Sheesh! Good job Heath!

Rick said...

One thing in ODE's favor is that--according to their website anyway--the 2005-07 contract extension stipulated that there would be no limits on the number of tests that they would keep track of. If this is indeed true, I can't imagine a judge who would rule in their favor.