Even Texas politicians have had enough of Sandy Kress by Jason Stanford

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jason-stanfordby JASON STANFORD Published on APRIL 5, 2013

If there’s one person in America who’s responsible for your child stressing about filling in the right little ovals with a No. 2 pencil, it’s Sandy Kress, the “key architect of No Child Left Behind” who later became a lobbyist for Pearson, the testing company. As high-stakes testing faces a national backlash, lawmakers in Texas – the birthplace of high-stakes standardized testing – aren’t just dialing back the state’s emphasis on tests but are also turning their guns on Kress to limit his policy-making role.

The Atlanta testing scandal in which the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year was indicted for racketeering has prompted questions about whether corruption in the classroom is an inevitable result of making test scores the primary focus of public schools. “Tragically, the Atlanta cheating scandal harmed our children and it crystallizes the unintended consequences of our test-crazed policies,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Opposition to high-stakes testing is popping up nationwide. In Seattle, teachers protested what they saw as the inequity of the Washington state test by refusing to administer it, sparking a copycat strike at dozens of high schools in nearby Portland. In Providence, 50 high school students outraged that their diplomas required them to pass standardized tests, dressed up like zombies and marched through the downtown rush hour chanting “No education, no life.” Even Bill Gates, long a proponent of education accountability, recently penned a Washington Post op-ed opposing the use of test scores to evaluate teachers.

But nowhere is the movement against high-stakes testing as strong as it is in Texas where all this started. Now, 86% of the state’s school boards have adopted resolutions opposing the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. Rick Perry’s last education commissioner called testing a “perversion of what is intended.” Volunteer moms, angry that a new testing regime forced their children to pass 15 standardized tests to get out of high school, lobbied the legislature with such vehemence that politicians began calling them “Mothers Against Drunk Testing.” The defenders of the testing status quo are now down to two: Kress, and Bill Hammond, a top business lobbyist who heads an organization that Pearson is a member of.

Kress advised Bush as governor, and when Bush became president, Kress – as a former Democratic Party official in Dallas – lobbied Ted Kennedy to support NCLB. He enjoyed a smooth transition into lobbying and has enjoyed an insider role in Perry’s administration,serving on state advisory boards and commissions that invariably found that the way to improve schools was more testing. Few seemed to mind his dual role as education adviser and Pearson lobbyist. It never caused a stir when Kress would testify before the legislature as a member of the state advisory panels in favor of more testing, leaving his status as a lobbyist for the testing company unstated. And with Kress advising Texas politicians to up the ante on testing, Pearson won increasingly large contracts that ended up totaling $980 million.

Now there’s a growing sense that testing has gotten out of control. The latest test was so tough that 27% of Texas’ entire 9th grade failed both the tests and the retakes and now can’t graduate high school. A recent poll commissioned by a teachers union found that when it comes to improving public schools, support for reducing the emphasis on standardized testing ranked higher than raising teacher pay and restoring budget cuts.

The backlash has now reached the chamber where this all started. When the Texas House passed a testing relief bill, lawmakers included two amendments aimed at Kress. Texas lawmakers, who have never exactly held business lobbyists at arm’s length, have had enough of Kress pretending he doesn’t have a conflict of interest while advocating unpopular policies that enrich his client. One amendment would ban testing lobbyists from serving on state education advisory boards, cutting to the heart of Kress’ ability to lobby from the inside. Another amendment would make it a misdemeanor for a testing lobbyist to make political contributions. When politicians make it a crime to give them money, something’s up.

Gene Sheets, the superintendent of the Muleshoe Independent School District, serves on a state advisory committee with Kress. Sheets was surprised but supportive when told of the amendment that would bar Kress from serving on the committee. “I’m in favor of that amendment,” said Sheets, measuring his words carefully. “I don’t think there needs to be any appearance of a conflict of interest in the education of our children.

Rep. Joe Deshotel, who authored one of the amendments, says it’s nothing personal. “For what it’s worth, I have never met Sandy Kress. I certainly have heard his name but would not know him if he were standing in front of me now,” said Deshotel. “However, just in principle I don’t think those that design the test and sell it to the state should sit on committees that have a direct impact on their product sales.”

Only congress can repeal No Child Left Behind, but Bush passed it by selling the notion that the tests worked in Texas when he was governor. Texas no longer believes in its own miracle, and the architect of this mess has lost his influence. Nobody’s buying what Sandy Kress is selling anymore.

Reprinted here with permission from Jason Stanford, April 11, 2013.

© Copyright 2013 Jason Stanford

Jason Stanford is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and Democratic political consultant who lives in Texas. He can be reached at stanford@oppresearch.com and on Twitter @jasstanford.

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9 comments
guest012
guest012

We are not Detroit.

We are DC.

We are Rhee.

Please send this to every board member, every parent, every teacher that you know.

Mike Miles will destroy this district the same way Rhee cheated her way to fame in DC.

http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=6232

Everything in this article sounds exactly like Miles. Why wasn't this woman prosecuted just like the cheaters in Atlanta? Because Obama and Arne and Kress like this approach. 

omgthebaggage
omgthebaggage

@guest012 

And didn't the Bush Institute bring DC's Commissioner of Ed from Rhee's reign of cheating to town?

Why didn't their Commissioner demand a thorough investigation?

Now she is McKenzie's favorite panelist.

Beer in Hand
Beer in Hand

Many of us knew Sandy when he was on the DISD Board of Trustees. And then, Pod People. Money. Power.

That is why in Dallas, the Democratic Party can stick a pole up its butt. For years, many of us have asked, begged them, to help us stop the  madness in DISD, only to be told, "We don't get involved in local, non-partison entities."

Really? You ask for our time, our votes, our money--as teachers in your stable of bloc voters,  but when we need help, you are suddenly unavavilable? Well, when people like Kress tell them to be---  or the Medranos, and Royce West, who makes LOTS of money off of DISD legal bills says to also back away---- we get the non-partisan FUBAR that is DISD.


So, DCDP--- as long as THIS is going on? Don't count on US helping you turn Dallas County blue anytime soon. And don't bother asking for the green, either. You get plenty from the likes of Kress.

Ask Pearson for money.

 Rear View Mirror
Rear View Mirror like.author.displayName 1 Like

We need skilled workers? Aren't those the ones who resigned or are resigning? He's bringing in what skilled workers? Workers who bow their collective hands to him...skilled in saying "yes, sire". And I am sure sick of "change is hard". I'd like some change - HIM GONE.

DISD Teach
DISD Teach like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ok, so I read FMM's Same Page today.  Found it irritating.  First, I don't like the phrase 'more skilled workers' especially in reference to the changing workplace.  Seems to me the workplace is changing because of ridiculous policies.  And then is he saying that the 'workers' we have now are not skilled enough?  Sick of the bashing we take in the media.  Teachers and principals are not just 'workers,' they are professionals with higher education degrees, even with certifications in their chosen professions.  We're actually certified, Mr. Miles.  The only way I could excuse that phrase is if you were referring to the lack of numbers, the vacancies throughout the district.  But, wait, if you filled those where would the money come from to pay for the programs we didn't get when we lost on that big federal grant?  Oh, yeah, let's keep those vacant, make the kids suffer, make the scores low, give you some data for your blurry vision.

http://www2.dallasisd.org/samepage/message.cfm?source=041013

DISD Teach
DISD Teach like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

There's no doubt that standardized testing did not work, especially when coupled with NCLB.  The language of the test is that of the test makers and not in the language students use to learn.  And, good luck to our ESL populations!  Because student accountability has gone out the window, kids move on to the next grade level without the skills necessary at that grade level or maybe two or three before that, and then promptly fail all standardized tests.  But what about their report cards??  By the time the grades come out a teacher may have given an entire letter grade from test corrections, make up work, 3rd and 4th chances.  That will make them college ready.  But, no child was left behind.  Then the real issue: can they pass the tests?  Not a ice cube's chance in hockey sticks.  It doesn't work.  It is flawed.  These test makers and lobbyists and such have made money.  Time to move a different direction.  And that direction must not include the use of these tests to evaluate teachers.  Kids must be accountable.  Their parents need to care about their kids' performance.  And, as long as those are out of our control, seems like a tough ordeal to find a fair way to evaluate a teacher using student data.

guest50
guest50 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Private citizen Kress sends his kids to elite private schools to escape testing.

Lobbyist Kress is paid well to sit in policy meetings and lobby for Pearson.

There is no Representative Kress because most people despise this man. So why is he making policy?

Kicking the wolf out of the hen house is a start. Labeling him a vendor would also help.

Why invite vendors to policy meetings?

Anyone at the campus level invite vendors to school decision making committees to determine what should happen on campuses?

Why invite Vendor Kress to a shareholder meeting when his kids don't attend public schools?

Waiting for  Belo
Waiting for Belo

NO in DISD we had vendor Jack Lowe as DISD BoT President. Doodling Jack.

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

I have no faith whatsoever in FMM or our legislators to do the right thing for public education.I hope with all my heart that both prove me wrong but I will not be holding my breath.

Neither appears to have any interest in consensus building. Both are "my way or the highway".

Trackbacks

  1. […] Kress became so unpopular amid an anti-testing rebellion in Texas that the legislature made it illegal for him or any other testing lobbyist to make campaign contributions. Even registered sex offenders […]

  2. […] Kress became so unpopular amid an anti-testing rebellion in Texas that the legislature made it illegal for him or any other testing lobbyist to make campaign contributions. Even registered sex offenders […]

  3. […] Kress became so unpopular amid an anti-testing rebellion in Texas that the legislature made it illegal for him or any other testing lobbyist to make campaign contributions. Even registered sex offenders […]

  4. […] Kress became so unpopular amid an anti-testing rebellion in Texas that the legislature made it illegal for him or any other testing lobbyist to make campaign contributions. Even registered sex offenders […]

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Foundation for Empowerment (FCE) released 3 papers:

1. Disruptive Change: Mike Miles and the Crisis In Dallas ISD, which has been prepared with consultation by education academics, extensive research, review of data and education literature, and meetings and interviews with people of Dallas holding varying and sometimes conflicting points of view;

2. Digging Into Data and Evidence: Mike Miles, Dallas ISD, and Trickle-Down Education Report, by Dr. Julian Vasquez Helig, Lindsay Redd, M.A. and Dr. Ruth Vail; and

3. The Challenge of Disruptive Leadership in Dallas ISD, by Decoteau J. Irby, Ph.D. and Matthew Birkhold, M.A.

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