It seems, according to an article, software giant, SAS, who already has a multi-million dollar contract with North Carolina Public Schools for its EVAAS value-added software system, provided undisclosed air travel for the UNC Board of Governors and candidate Margaret Spellings during the recent presidential search. (See WRAL's "SAS Provided Undisclosed Air Travel During UNC Presidential Search.") This raises some interesting questions.
Most of us in education are very aware that SAS would stand to gain should North Carolina adopt some of the proposals that would evaluate new teacher programs by tying the performance of these college programs to "student growth measures" on state standardized tests. In light of these "gifts" to the UNC system, SAS would "just happen to be there" with its EVAAS system should North Carolina make this adoption.
Is it not equally interesting that SAS provided air travel to Margaret Spellings, whom most of us in education see as a major advocate for standardized testing and accountability measures? We have her to thank for her support of the failure of the "test and punish" systems of accountability under No Child Left Behind. Naturally, SAS obviously wants someone as UNC president who would push the same kinds of measures at the university level, so why not provide her air travel? I submit that this means that North Carolina sees the adoption of EVAAS value-added measures in the future for all North Carolina university teacher education programs.
Ultimately, the UNC system in situations like this should not accept gifts from corporations who might stand to gain from future university decisions. The UNC system should reimburse SAS for the entire amount of these "gifts" to ensure that it is not subject to being bought by corporations. It is a matter of integrity, which our universities still have and our state politicians do not. It's also very convenient that SAS did not disclose the gifts as they were apparently supposed to do.