On September 12th of last year, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler notified the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) that North Dakota would be withdrawing from the SBAC effective June 30, 2017. The SBAC assessments are actually aligned with the controversial Common Core State Standards. This decision meant that the state would have an open bidding process to determine who would provide state assessments for grades 3-8 in Math and English going forward.
Two months ago I wrote an article that the bidding process had begun on May 1st and proposals were due by June 14, 2017. On July 5th, Robert Bauer in the Department of Public Instruction’s Assessment Office confirmed for me that the proposals were in and that evaluation of those proposals had begun:
“We are in the process of evaluating proposals from assessment companies. We have not selected an assessment company yet. An Intent to Award will likely be announced this month.”
Mr. Bauer later sent me the Request for Proposal (RFP) document utilized by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which actually includes all the deadlines as part of the process. You can see them here:
As you can see, t he approximate deadline for the evaluation of proposals to be completed was June 30th. The approximate deadline for “Notice of Intent to Award” was July 7th.
Mr. Bauer referred me to DPI’s Procurement Officer, Lisa Lee, for any further questions. Being sensitive to the fact that the deadline to award had not yet passed, I no longer inquired about names of vendors who submitted proposals. But I did submit a request for the number of bidders and got this response from Ms. Lee on July 6th:
“Until this is awarded (sometime in the next few weeks – date unknown) no information will be released.”
In response to her, and in an effort to save us both time, I asked if she had even an idea what date this would be awarded. Unfortunately, Ms. Lee did not respond to that question.
After not hearing back from Ms. Lee, I checked in yesterday to find out if there were any new developments. And if not, I inquired whether there was a new date set to announce the winning bid. Ultimately I got this response:
“This RFP has not been awarded so is considered a closed record. Until it is awarded, no information will be released.”
So, as of today, we are now twelve days past the approximate July 7th deadline. And as you can also see, we are two days past the approximate “Contract start” date of July 17th.
The entire process obviously leaves us with unanswered questions. But aside from the question of who the winning bidder is, I have other questions on my mind.
Is this an actual delay or stonewalling? Forgive me for being skeptical, but with the past dishonesty exhibited by Superintendent Baesler, I just can’t help myself.
Why wouldn’t they answer a simple question about how many vendors had submitted bids? Look again at the “Estimated RFP Schedule” I shared above. Now look at the June 26th deadline. What does it say? ” Offeror’s opportunity to provide on-site demonstrations to Evaluation Team (Optional). State Capital, Coteau A Room.”
I called the State Capitol to find out if the June 26th meeting took place. I was then transferred to Legislative Council who informed me that they only have control over that room during session. I was told to contact DPI, which I did.
When I reached DPI and asked about the meeting, I was transferred to their Public Information Specialist’s extension, but it went straight to voicemail. I e-mailed a request in an attempt to get the answer and am awaiting a response.
By now some of you may be wondering why all of this is important in the first place. Well, Kirsten Baesler and many in the Legislature have paraded around the state trying to convince people that Common Core no longer exists in North Dakota. A claim that is absolutely false.
And with reports that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was going to be allowed to be part of this bidding process, the possibility exists that they could still be the state’s testing arm. If that ends up being the case, then almost nothing has changed in terms of state standards and assessments– in spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary.
It will be interesting to know whether the June 26th meeting in Coteau A took place. If it didn’t, why? One would certainly believe that the Evaluation Team would like to see on-site demonstrations of the assessment options they are considering as part of the bidding process. And if it did take place, it will be interesting to know if it was a public or closed meeting? If it was public, why the refusal to reveal the number of vendors bidding? Or even the names of the vendors for that matter?
Yes, this is truly a topic of speculation at this point. But how can we do anything but speculate when DPI goes past their own approximate deadlines and refuses to answer basic questions?
One thing is certain. At some point, DPI will have to announce who the winning bidder is. What some of us want to know is whether they have the arrogance to award the contract to the very consortium the Superintendent of Public Instruction said we were done with? At this point, it appears it is still a possibility. We just have to wait a bit longer to find out.