Despite Istation-Amplify uncertainty, Chatham County Schools moving forward

Posted 9/6/19

Unless one pays keen attention to statewide education news, the term “Istation” might be like a foreign word. But it’s dominated conversation at the state level in recent weeks.

Here’s the …

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Despite Istation-Amplify uncertainty, Chatham County Schools moving forward

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Unless one pays keen attention to statewide education news, the term “Istation” might be like a foreign word. But it’s dominated conversation at the state level in recent weeks.

Here’s the short version, according to various statements and media reports.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson chose to replace Amplify with Istation as the state public schools’ vendor for reading assessments for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Istation utilizes computer-based tests, while Amplify’s program mClass allows teachers to hear students read out loud and assess them that way.

There was some pushback from teachers and others about Johnson’s decision, but it particularly came from Amplify, which eventually appealed the decision to the state Department of Information Technology. The DIT granted a temporary stay on the Istation contract on Aug. 19, exactly one week before school was scheduled to start.

Since the announcement of the stay, Johnson has released statements critical of the DIT’s decision and announced last week that teachers would still start training on Istation.

That’s the really short version.

Chatham County Schools Superintendent Derrick Jordan told the News + Record last week that the district has started training teachers on the new program.

“My hope is, whatever the answer is, that it will be determined and shared as quickly as possible,” Jordan said. “But we have pushed forward with the training for Istation for our teachers, as most have, because we don’t want to be caught behind the 8-ball if the decision is to proceed with the transition.”

Jordan and other superintendents, regardless of they feel about the program, have already gotten one win in the process.

When the Istation contract was announced earlier this year, it was slated to be in use at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. But teachers and others across the state expressed concern that there wouldn’t be enough time to train educators to use the program prior to the year beginning.

In June, according to WRAL, a group of 88 district superintendents sent a letter to Johnson asking him to delay the use of Istation for a year to prepare teachers for the change.

“A change in assessment tool that has so much impact in the classroom would be a challenge,” the letter said, “due to the late decision and announcement on June 7, 2019.”

Jordan told the News + Record he was absent from the meeting — he added that he almost never misses them — but agreed with the letter and would have signed it himself.

“I would have been one,” he said. “I had certainly expressed my concern about the timeline, not so much the shift, but the timeline. Obviously, we would have preferred to have had all those pieces ironed out.”

In a statement on Aug. 27, Johnson said Istation will continue working with districts and teachers “while the procurement review is conducted rather than stopping everything and delaying better education opportunities for North Carolina teachers and students.” Istation will not be paid during this period.

The News + Record will update this process if and/or when this will affect Chatham County students.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


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