A very informative article written by Morgan Smith. Smith reports on politics and education for the Tribune, which she joined in November 2009. She writes about the effects of the state budget, school finance reform, accountability and testing in Texas public schools. Her political coverage has included congressional and legislative races, as well as Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, which she followed to Iowa and New Hampshire. In 2013, she received a National Education Writers Association award for “Death of a District,” a series on school closures. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Wellesley College, she moved to Austin in 2008 to enter law school at the University of Texas. A San Antonio native, her work has also appeared in Slate, where she spent a year as an editorial intern in Washington D.C.
Pearson Loses Bulk of Texas Student Testing Contract
- by Morgan Smith
For the first time in three decades, a new company is poised to develop and administer the state-required exams Texas students begin taking in the third grade.
The state is in negotiations with Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to take over the bulk of the four-year, $340 million student assessment contract, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday. Company Vice President John Oswald said ETS is “privileged and honored” to land the work. Final contracts are still being negotiated.
The London-based Pearson Education has held the state’s largest education-related contract — most recently, a five-year, $468 million deal to provide state exams through 2015 — since Texas began requiring state student assessments in the 1980s. Under the new agreement, the company would still develop the state’s assessments designed for special needs and foreign students. That portion of the contract is worth about $60 million.
As the Legislature moved to reduce the state’s standardized testing program in response to widespread outcry from parents and school leaders in 2013, the state’s contract with Pearson became the focus of much criticism. Many lawmakers, including former Senate Education Committee Chairman and now Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, attacked what they viewed as the company’s excessive influence in the policy-making process and called for greater scrutiny of testing contracts.
In 2013, the state auditor concluded that the state education agency did not adequately oversee the contract with Pearson. At the time, Education Commissioner Michael Williams thanked the auditor’s office for its recommendations, which he said would be put into effect immediately.
Disclosure: Pearson is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Comment from Donna Garner
“Now that new tests are to be developed for Texas by Educational Testing Service, the TEA staffers will really have to monitor the development of these new tests carefully. They must follow the Type #1 TEKS adopted by the elected members of the SBOE. Part of the reason why Texas dumped Pearson is because of its very close ties to Common Core which has become a “dirty name” all across America, including in Texas. Hopefully when ETS produces its new set of Texas tests, the test writers will stay completely clear of Common Core.”
SBOE, District 12