In a consent agenda filled with purchase contracts, one item caught Pasco School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley's attention Tuesday evening — a $179,292 textbook order for a new remedial course, Math for College Readiness.
Her concern? The single provider of the material was Pearson Education, a division of the company that also creates and scores Florida's FCAT test. A district materials review team deemed the company's Intermediate Algebra materials package most in-line with the state requirements for the course, and also in line with a related Pasco-Hernando Community College course.
"It seemed to be a clear conflict of interest when Pearson is the sole source for publishing the FCAT, but for those students who do not do well, they must use remedial work published by Pearson," Hurley told the Gradebook.
Pearson also provides the materials for the state's English 4: College Prep remedial course.
Hurley had the item removed from board consideration until the staff could provide more information. Pearson's role as the sole provider of so many materials in Florida's testing and accountability system is one of the many reasons Florida's school board members are raising concerns about the system, she suggested.
"There needs to be a broadening of the availability of contractors that supply testing and remediation materials," she said.
Hurley did not, however, take up the United School Employees of Pasco's request that the board consider a resolution urging Florida lawmakers to scale back the state's reliance on the FCAT. She suggested there was no need for a resolution, in that the board members could address their concerns directly with area lawmakers whom, she noted, have important leadership roles.
"We have a very receptive legislative delegation that is willing to listen to us," she explained, quickly adding that it was her opinion only. Other board members said they still might bring the resolution up for a vote.