He sure does love to spend some money:
Earlier this month, State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson announced that he signed a three-year, multi-million dollar contact to switch all elementary schools to the Istation program to assess students under North Carolina’s Read To Achieve program. Istation will put children in kindergarten through third grade on a computer three times a year to test their reading skills, then print out reports for teachers.
In an email to teachers about the change, Johnson said, “Istation is a tool designed by teachers for teachers and has proven results of helping students grow.” But teachers across the state have taken to social media to urge people to contact state lawmakers and the State Board of Education to block the change.
This is par for the course for Johnson, spend money on crap teachers neither want nor need, like $6 million worth of iPads. I'm beginning to think he's one of those people who are easily impressed by a well-dressed salesperson who knows how to stroke his little-boy ego. I'll let Justin Parmenter take the reins on Istation:
There are a few reasons Johnson’s decision is problematic, apart from its unilateral nature and dismissal of the input of knowledgeable stakeholders.
Poor timing: Announcing the change just as teachers leave for summer vacation means there will be insufficient time for educators to get up to speed with the new materials before they have to start using them for the 2019-2020 school year. For year-round schools which are beginning their school years in early July this is an even bigger problem.
Increased screen time: The adoption of Istation means increased screen time for our youngest students. Excessive screen time is already a major concern of many parents and educators, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, which notes that “a growing body of evidence suggests that the use of media while engaged in academic tasks has negative consequences on learning.”
Reduced human interaction: As the selection committee pointed out, having a teacher listen as a child produces sound is a crucial part of literacy instruction. Teachers who use mClass sit with their students and observe their reading behaviors. This one-on-one interaction allows educators to quickly and accurately identify students who need additional help and pursue appropriate interventions to get them on track. Istation marginalizes those classroom teachers, instead requiring children to look at a computer screen and react to what they see rather than actually reading letters and words and creating sounds for a qualified human teacher to evaluate.
Potential lack of correlation with state assessments: Research demonstrates that mClass results are highly predictive of performance on North Carolina End of Grade reading assessments. Not only does Istation lack that level of documentation, Denver Public Schools recently had to reduce the impact of early literacy scores on school rating systems because third graders who scored well on Istation were scoring so poorly on year-end reading tests that concerns were raised about the validity of results.
The part about human interaction cannot be stressed enough. Phonics are great, but they have to be constantly reinforced. Not a day goes by where I am not amazed and challenged by the complexity of the English language, and I consider myself to be very adept with it. In the absence of verbal cues by the student, it's not just mispronounced words that result. It's very often a disconnect with root words and other etymological factors that will contribute to learning challenges down the road. This is a critical phase of education that calls for more teacher intervention, not less.
I will end this rant with a poke at Istation's COO, Ossa Fisher, who is quoted in the OP:
But Ossa Fisher, president of Texas-based Istation, says that critics need to give the new system a chance. She points to how reading scores have not improved in third grade in the six years that mClass has been used under Read To Achieve..
“Somebody decided it was time for a change and the status quo was not effective,” Fisher said in an interview.
She has been posting articles on Huffpost for the last 2-3 years, and nearly every single one includes a link to her company. This is, in a word, spam. Over the years I have removed such diaries here, and blocked or deleted such accounts. Not necessarily because of the content, but because of the marketing of for-profit businesses. Huffpost would do well to police its platform a little better, but I won't lose any sleep over it.