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All in the (Pearson) Family

Ohanian Comment: Let's have data warehousing begin at home, as in the state education agency. It looks like current policy is not to keep detailed records and then to quickly shed the ones they do keep--on Pearson. Maybe they're too busy figuring out those value added scores on teachers to worry about what Pearson's up to.

Reader Comment: With the 20 or so articles in the last 8 months or so about some of the 'issues' with Pearson -- TEA is finally going to try to install some oversight. RRRIIIGGGGHHHTTTT!!!!! Texas has been at the mercy of Pearson for longer than I can remember -- and the results are the same (or worse). One of the TV stations uncovered tons of inaccuracies, incomplete expense reports, horrendous overcharges from Pearson that TEA couldn't explain. We just keep sending millions and millions and millions their way -- thanks to their lobbyists, and hiring practices - without ever holding THEM accountable. Oh that's right - it's the fault of the teachers -- I forgot!

Revolving door policy reinstated for TEA employees
By Terrence Stutz

The Texas Education Agency is reinstating a "revolving door" policy that was quietly set aside two years ago to allow some of its employees to go to work for the state's student testing contractor. Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Tuesday employees will no longer be able to go to work for NCS Pearson Inc. for one year after leaving the TEA. Suspension of the policy came to light in a report from the State Auditor's Office Tuesday on the $462 million contract between NCS Pearson and the education agency. A total of 11 employees who worked on student assessments at the agency later worked for Pearson.

"For years, we followed the standard revolving door language. But it was changed in 2011 because of downsizing at the agency when we laid off many high quality employees," Ratcliffe said. "But we recognize it is a concern, so we will go back to the standard language right away." She noted that the revolving door ban affected only the Pearson contract. In 2011, the agency lost about a third of it employees -- 343 positions out of a total of 1,060 -- after the Legislature slashed funding to offset a massive revenue shortfall. The TEA now has about 700 employees. Ratcliffe said the TEA also has restored a requirement that Pearson notify agency officials whenever it hires former or retired TEA employees.

Regarding the Pearson contract, the state auditor mildly criticized the agency for not having in place better written policies and procedures to oversee the contract. "Although state tests were administered and graded in a timely manner, the agency lacks adequate processes for monitoring the contract," the report said. "As a result, the agency cannot verify that tasks and deliverables (products) are completed prior to payment." [emphasis added] State Education Commissioner Michael Williams said his staff is ready to implement the changes called for by the auditor. "The SAO review has provided recommendations that can help us better track and strengthen our oversight," he said. Among the recommendations are more detailed monthly invoices and longer retention of documents. [emphasis added] The current five-year contract with Pearson runs through Aug. 31, 2015.

— Terrence Stutz
Dallas News Education Blog





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