Recently obtained emails suggest that collusion between the AZ Department of Education and potential statewide testing contract bidders, PARCC/Pearson testing, may have occurred in violation of the state procurement process.
In this article I will refer to the PARCC testing group and the Pearson testing group as one entity, PARCC/Pearson, as they are very intertwined. I explain this close relationship in my article “The truth behind Arizona’s sudden withdrawal from PARCC” published last week in the Arizona Daily Independent.
The Procurement Office announced that in accordance with ARS41-2534, the Arizona Department of Education is soliciting competitive sealed bids,” on the contract for a new statewide test to replace the AIMS test which was given to our state’s students for the last time this past school year.
Gov Jan Brewer and Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal hurriedly removed our state from its nearly 4-year involvement with the PARCC/Pearson testing group a couple weeks back in an attempt to remove any appearance of favoritism in anticipation of PARCC/Pearson bidding on our statewide Common Core test.
The Dept of Education states that it is not available for comments or questions during the bidding process, but that only increases the questions we have. All bids are due by July 18, 2014.
Between now and the end of the acceptance of bids on July 18, there are a few things that Arizonans must consider about potential bidders PARCC/ Pearson and their relationship to Superintendent Huppenthal.
Superintendent Huppenthal has been a Governing Board member of the PARCC group for the past several years and has been involved in every key decision it made in that time. All Governing Board member states agreed to field test and eventually use PARCC’s final test in the Spring of 2015 in their states.
Check out this email to Superintendent Huppenthal thanking him for not only working towards making PARCC the test that Arizona adopts, but for agreeing to have Arizonan kids be used to make the PARCC test better by mandating that they participate in the field testing of the PARCC/Pearson assessment.
From: Laura Slover [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, July 12, 2013 12:11 PM
To: Huppenthal, John
Subject: PARCC Governing Board Follow-up
Thanks very much for attending the Governing Board Meeting on June 26th. From my perspective, it was a very productive day and the Governing Board took important steps towards successful delivery of the PARCC assessments in 2014-15. I hope you found it to be a good use of your time, and I am interested to hear your feedback on the meeting and on ways we can help you stay engaged in the work moving forward.
The Governing Board also asked that we hold monthly Governing Board conference calls, the first of which has just been scheduled (with your scheduler’s help) for next week to discuss the July 22nd release of the cost estimates and to update you on field test planning. I hope you are able to join one of the calls scheduled for Wednesday, July 17th at 9:00 am ET and Friday, July 19th at 8:00 am ET. (Note: you only need to join one of these times.) We are working with your schedulers to set up the calls for future months.
Laura McGiffert Slover
Senior Vice President
PARCC/Pearson also has “state lead teams” in the AZ Department of Education to help with the development of their test, all paid for by AZ taxpayers.
In the following email from Laura Slover, of PARCC/Pearson, she appears to be admitting that she has received special, insider information regarding our process for obtaining our statewide test. This email was sent to our PARCC state lead team and John Huppenthal. Ms. Slover admits,
“Over the last several weeks, my team has had one-on-one calls with states to discuss their anticipated mechanism for procuring or purchasing the PARCC assessments.”
And she continues,
“I strongly encourage you to check with your team – state lead, procurement official, budget/finance official and legal counsel – to ensure you have shared any specific requirements for your state procurement process with us.”
Here is the email itself for you to decide:
From: Laura Slover (PARCC) Sent: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 9:35 AM To: Carey Wright; Chris Cerf; Chris Cerf Personal; Chris Koch; Deborah Gist; Hanna Skandera; Jesus Aguirre; John Huppenthal; John King; John White; Kevin Huffman; Laura Slover; Lillian Lowery; Mitchell Chester; Pamela Stewart; Paul Pastorek — personal; Richard Ross; Robert Hammond; Tom Kimbrell
Cc: PARCC Staff (state lead contacts omitted)- AZ Dept of Ed recipients included Director of AZ PARCC Assessments, Sarah Gardner, and Associate Superintendent of Assessment, Leila Williams.
Subject: PARCC update for Governing Board 11.12.13
PARCC Governing Board Members –
I wanted to share a number of important updates with you, including three important action items for you and your state leads.
1. Operational Assessment RFP
b. Over the last several weeks, my team has had one-on-one calls with states to discuss their anticipated mechanism for procuring or purchasing the PARCC assessments (e.g. cooperative agreement, sole source, individual competitive RFP), as well as to confirm any specific requirements the state has for cooperative purchasing.
i. Through these conversations, we have identified a number of specific needs for a few states and are working with NM to address them.
ii. I strongly encourage you to check with your team – state lead, procurement official, budget/finance official and legal counsel – to ensure you have shared any specific requirements for your state procurement process with us. We believe we have identified all of these requirements at this point, but want to make sure that every state’s needs are addressed prior to the RFP’s release next week.
As part of submitting bids for the AZ statewide test contract, the submitting company, in this case PARCC/Pearson, must certify that it “did not engage in collusion or other anti-competitive practices in connection with the preparation or submission of its offer”.
In light of the above emails, PARCC/Pearson should be forbidden from bidding on the contract for our statewide test to replace the AIMS.
According to Kirsten Lombard, who offered testimony before the Wisconsin Legislature on public/private partnerships in relation to Common Core said, “Increased awareness of this type of corruption in education has average citizens doing something unexpected—reaching across traditional ideological lines to work together in opposition. Lombard, founder of Resounding Books, which is set to release Common Ground on Common Core, says, “Name nearly any state. The average citizen hasn’t had a fair opportunity to engage or even to resist. Handshakes, funding, and structure are all laid into place without public awareness, then covered over by powerful marketing campaigns. The citizen is just expected to embrace one fait accompli after another. The machine works to marginalize anyone who raises concerns. Welcome to public-private partnership, in which the will of the people and the public trust are both expendable.”
It is the public trust that appears to have been broken in light of the above emails. Superintendent Huppenthal, Governor Brewer, and the AZ Department of Education have a lot of explaining to do. Is the Attorney General’s Office listening?
Brad McQueen is a former Common Core insider and current public school teacher in Tucson, Arizona and is the author of the anti-Common Core book “The Cult of Common Core”. Connect with Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org