Nashville taxpayers shelled out millions just a few years ago for special new software designed to track the academic progress of every student in the city based on the recommendation of schools director Shawn Joseph.
Now they’re learning Joseph misled the public as he worked to secure the no-bid contracts and his personal connection to the education contractor, Performance Matters.
Metro Nashville Public Schools acknowledged it broke state law by awarding a $1 million no-bid contract to Performance Matters for a student assessment platform at the behest of Joseph, who alleged the company was already working “effectively” in the state at Shelby County Schools, WTVF reports.
But a television investigation revealed Joseph was in contact with Performance Matters well before the Shelby County Schools contract went into effect and weeks before he started as head of Nashville schools in 2016.
The first contract came the following year, followed by another $845,000 no bid contract with Performance Matters that also violated state law, according to the news site, which has also exposed Joseph’s cozy relationship with the company.
Joseph previously used the software at schools in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland, appeared in a promotional video for Performance Matters, and accepted an all-expenses paid trip to present at the company’s 2014 conference.
Now, WTVF is exposing perhaps the most egregious part of the ordeal: Teachers in Nashville schools claim they’ve never heard of Performance Matters and have never used it in their classrooms.
During a recent Teacher Town Hall, only one of 14 teachers who came to discuss issues with the television station had even heard of the system.
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“I don’t know that that is,” one teacher said.
“Never heard of it,” another claimed.
“How much are we paying again?” a third questioned. “And we’ve never heard of it?”
“I have heard of it, and I have seen a very brief snippet of what it’s supposed to do,” middle school teacher Janita Sanders said. “It was never rolled out to us to use.”
Nashville schools is currently struggling through perpetual budget problems that have forced parents to physically bring supplies into schools to keep the buildings operational, according to the news site.
When WTVF pressed the district for information on the number of times teachers have logged into the system, officials gave reporters the run-around.
“MNPS does not track usage or log-in information for Performance Matters’ Unify system,” records specialist Nichole Reid told the news site.
Reid claimed Performance Matters “cannot show how many times an individual logged in or what the MNPS usage rates are.”
Last week, district officials sent a memo to principals directing them to attend training to learn to use the system, though the company’s contract ends this school year.
Meanwhile, Joseph’s $285,000-per-year job is in jeopardy as divided school board contemplates his future in the district amid a flood of other controversies and issues, from lackluster student performance, to publicized recordings of him denigrating teachers, to audits highlighting poor communication and serious budget issues, the Tennessean reports.