NC Hands K-3 Reading Decision To Local Districts After Istation Flap

May 21, 2020

The crucial task of monitoring reading skills in K-3 students will fall to local school districts next year, state Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Thursday.

The decision to abandon a statewide system comes after a year of legal, political and academic wrangling over Johnson's decision last summer to award an $8 million contract to Istation. The state mandated the early-grades testing as part of its Read To Achieve program. Amplify, the company that held the contract since that program began in 2013, challenged the decision to switch to Istation.

Schools were left in limbo over how to meet the state's Read To Achieve requirements as the battle over Istation dragged on.

The "diagnostic" system used to size up skills throughout the year is separate from North Carolina's End of Grade exams, which normally start in third grade. Those have been put on hold this year because of school closings to avoid the spread of coronavirus. They're expected to return in 2021 -- and the state has required all schools to administer the year-end third-grade test to fourth-graders within 10 days of the opening of school.

Johnson, a vocal advocate for Istation, didn't seek reelection this year. He said the decision to abandon a statewide contract for K-3 reading in 2020-21 doesn't mean the issue is settled forever.

"We will likely return to one diagnostic for the entire state in the years ahead," Johnson told the state Board of Education on Thursday. "But this is the right decision for next school year."

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