Reading test contract could be worth $400,000 per year

The vendor that could wind up rewriting Idaho’s reading test stands to make more than $400,000 per year.

But this proposal ­— from Imagination Station, a Dallas-based vendor — appears to be the low bid for the test contract, according to documents released Tuesday afternoon. And the cost for a 2017-18 pilot test comes in far below the state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s $5.9 million request. Ybarra wants to revamp or replace the Idaho Reading Indicator, a screening test for kindergartners through third-graders.

In response to an Idaho Education News public records request, Ybarra’s State Department of Education released 1,790 pages of documents, and issued a news release announcing that the documents were available to the public.

The late afternoon data release included the proposals from the vendors — redacted in spots to protect what the department described as vendor trade secrets. Also released were cost proposals for the three bidders.

Here’s how the costs stack up:

  • Imagination Station, also known as Istation, would receive about $64,000 in 2017-18, for professional development and administering a pilot test to 10,500 students. Costs would increase to $435,000 in 2018-19, when 90,250 students are expected to take the test. Costs in subsequent years would come to about $425,000 annually.
  • Curriculum Associates of North Billerica, Mass., sought more than $197,000 in pilot costs in 2017-18, and nearly $717,000 in 2018-19. Ongoing costs would come to $494,000 annually.
  • Renaissance, based in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc., sought $116,000 in 2017-18 and $936,000 in 2018-19. The company said its costs would continue to increase during the five-year contract.

Last month, the SDE said Istation graded out as its preferred bidder to revamp the writing test — based on costs and other metrics. That does not mean Istation has the contract. First, lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter must decide whether they want to pay to revamp the reading test. If they sign on, Istation’s contract would go into effect on July 1.

Ybarra and some reading experts say the IRI needs to be replaced. They cite several shortcomings with the screening test. It identifies students who are not reading at grade level, but does not try to diagnose the root cause. The test also focuses only on reading speed, not comprehension.

On Dec. 22, Ybarra announced her intention to award the test contract to Istation — but at the time, she released no details about the contract costs.

Idaho Education News had filed a public records request on Dec. 16, seeking bids to revamp or replace the IRI.

On Tuesday, in response to the request, the SDE said it would release the bids in part. The bids were edited to remove trade secrets, an exemption outlined in Idaho public records law.

Shortly after responding to Idaho Education News’ records request, the SDE issued a news release saying the edited documents were available to the public.

Learn more: Link to the Idaho Education News-“Idaho Reports” series on the state’s new literacy initiative. 

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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