I’ve been to a lot of School Board meetings over the years. I can honestly say I have never seen or heard about this happening before.

Amid all of the hullabaloo surrounding the release of state A-F grades at yesterday’s State BOE Special Meeting, the Board also gave approval to the State Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to award a $35 million contract for the development and administration of the next generation of state assessments for grades 3 through 8 to:

Are you ready for this, “Company C.” I’m not kidding!

As reported earlier by okeducationtruths HERE, the actual agenda item read as follows:

State Board approval is being requested for OMES to award bid for the Oklahoma College and Career Readiness Assessment (OCCRA). This will include grades 3-8 Math and English Language Arts. This test will be operational 2014-2015.

The “Boys from Company C” were popping corks last night while the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B went to bed ticked off!

Is this even legal? Can a publicly appointed board, in a meeting subject to state open meeting laws to ensure transparency and accountability, simply assign a contract of this size and magnitude to “anonymous?” Even if it is legal, it sure smells bad!

I wonder what an open records request might reveal. Anybody game, Kim or Andrea at the Tulsa World?

I am very surprised that any Board would agree to this type of trickery and concealment. The Board members obviously know who Company C really is. Dr. Barresi certainly knows who Company C is. Why the obfuscation and games? Is this what Dr. Barresi calls “transparency?”

This is speculation on my part but I believe the decision to not reveal the actual vendor during the public meeting was intentional. Whomever the SDE has selected must be someone they felt would be controversial. For that reason, they will likely tell us on a Friday afternoon as they turn off the lights before going home for the weekend.

Again, I think they have already shown their cards. By indicating that some of new field test items, oops, I mean pilot, or is that “item try-outs,” would be embedded in the current operational tests seems to indicate that this vendor will be our beloved testing behemoth, CTB/McGraw-Hill. Yes, the same Company C who was completely unprepared and inept during last Spring’s testing! The same company that Janet issued another contract for this year’s testing with no public discussion.

I cannot imagine CTB allowing another testing vendor to insert field test items into their existing tests, can you? I could be wrong but I don’t see how the field testing process would work this spring if two different testing companies were involved.

So, here’s what it really comes down to. The Board and State Superintendent were afraid to reveal this information in a meeting where hundreds of state superintendents, school leaders, and reporters would be in attendance. Don’t you know that there would have been quite a few folks wanting to share public comments about their experience with CTB last year? It would have gotten quite ugly to be sure.

However, that does not let the Board off the hook. If the SDE has valid justification for awarding this contract, we have a right to hear those reasons in a public hearing. This is OUR $35 million dollars, NOT theirs!

Let’s also not forget that this is not simply a bid to install new toilets at the Oliver Hodge Building. This is a contract that will impact millions of students, teachers, and schools over the next five years. These tests will be the major factor in determining school accountability grades. They will decide whether thousands of third graders will be retained. The results of these tests will be used to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance as part of the TLE system and may cost jobs. They will impact remediation funding, student schedules, and a whole host of other factors.

In short, this is one of the most important decisions our SDE and State BOE has ever made. And all we get by way of explanation is “We like Company C!” This is unsatisfactory!

Can you imagine your own local Board of Education at a monthly board meeting awarding a $35 million contract for a new major construction project to “anonymous.” We would not stand for that and we shouldn’t stand for this either!

As you can tell, the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy is not the only one upset this morning!