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Education Featured Article

November 01, 2012

Florida's Department of Education Sinks Deal to Build Education Website

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Florida's recent plans to build a website specifically designed to help all the stakeholders in the educational process--students, teachers, and even parents--master new standards in the school system were shut down just yesterday under some very unusual circumstances, and after spending nearly $2.5 million on the project.

The total value of the project was to hit $20 million--that's how much the original contract was set for--and was officially ended just yesterday, a week after the Tallahassee firm originally brought in to do the job, Infinity Software Development, filed a lawsuit against state education officials regarding their handling of the contract. The dispute between the two parties has been going on for some time and leaves the official status of the website that was originally set to equip students to better reach new standards by way of practice lessons and tests to match.

The troubles began back in 2011, when Florida looked to start building the website thanks to a Race to the Top grant Florida received from the federal government. Florida then looked to Microsoft (News - Alert) to start building the site, but Infinity challenged the contract on the strength of Microsoft's plans to retain ownership of the equipment and software in building the site to the state. Infinity then got the nod in July 2011, but it took until December to get the final contract signed due to a series of issues in managing the contract.

The state contends that Infinity wasn't turning in adequate materials to run tests, citing at one point Infinity's use of the phrase "pursuit of happiness" in describing the preamble to the U.S. Constitution as opposed to the Declaration of Independence. Infinity responds that delays are more related to the state's lack of attention in the matter, not reviewing work submitted in sufficiently timely fashion and failing to sign off on work done. This in turn has caused Infinity to lay off 17 employees, and shut down work with fully 100 contract employees. Infinity then requested a payment of $3.23 million to cover work already done, saying that if lost profits were included the amount would be $4.5 million.

The issue is troubling to say the least; improving student performance in the classroom is vital to the future of the United States as a whole. Getting the proper materials to students is a large part of improving performance, whether it's done in the classroom or outside by materials like the website Infinity was developing. Outside materials can be a huge help in building students' capacity for learning, and the more students learn on their own, the better a job they can do overall in the classroom. Hopefully the issues can be amicably resolved, and the students can get the necessary access to material they need for their best chance at success.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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