Appointment of Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond to state Task Force on Test Security raises eyebrows and red flags
Commissioner Neeley said she created the task force after a data forensic study found evidence of cheating on standardized tests. It happens that the company that oversees standardized testing for the Texas Education Agency Pearson Educational Measurement was also a subcontractor on the forensic study job that went to Utah-based Caveon Test Security. The TEA awarded Pearson the $279 million testing contract in June 2005 and handed Caveon and Pearson the $500,000 cheating contract one month later. During this same period of time, both Hammond and Pearson lobbyist Sandy Kress (the architect of the No Child Left Behind Act that brought us high-stakes testing) were engaged in some high-stakes lobbying on a school finance bill pending in a special session of the Legislature. The two were aggressively pushing legislation that would have established a series of unachievable "reform" mandates for public schools and made it easier for private companies to take over failing campuses. The measure failed, but the findings of the new task force could provide more ammunition for voucher supporters. In a statement last week, Hammond vowed: "As a member of this commission, I will work to see that aggressive action is taken to deal with past transgressions.