In my list of categories on this blog, the words “Texas” and “testing” are side-by-side. One of the biggest stories in the nation today is how ordinary folks–moms, dads, and students–in Texas are slaying the monster that ate their education.

Over the past 20-30 years, Texas became drunk on testing. The lobbyists for Pearson–headed by Sandy Kress, the architect of NCLB–made sure that Pearson won a five-year contract for nearly $500 million in 2011 at the same time that the legislature striped away $5.4 Billion from the public schools.

After I wrote a post about the last minute flurry of bills about vouchers and charters and online charters in this legislative session (which ends May 26), I received this informative comment about the state of education in Texas:

“Texas public schools will survive. Sen. Patrick is doing some good things by shepherding HB5 through the Senate. He learned from his mistakes in past sessions when he championed the expansion of testing. I should let him use my time machine to see what a confusing and hopeless mess expanding charters and vouchers will be leading to graft and corruption.

There’s lots of bills that need help! HB5, HB2836, HB866 primarily. Not only will HB5 reduce standardized testing, but it will put some controls in place such limiting benchmark testing by districts and removing testing company lobbyists from state education committees and other policy making bodies. Sandy Kress and others were allowed to sit on various committees while being paid by Pearson. The others will strip testing in lower grades as HB5 only deals with the 15+ End-of-Course exams in High School which my daughter is taking now along side her AP exams.

Thanks to other groups as well, one of which is in the chambers tweeting updates including photos-Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments. They are active on facebook and send out regular and timely email calls to action. They’ve also been out barnstorming around the state for nearly a year having just spoken at Eanes ISD to parents and other interested members of the community.

The other group is Houston’s Community Voices for Public Education that stays in touch with Houston’s local communities producing and holding meetings in multiple languages. CVPE members have packed Houston Independent School District Board meetings and motivated students, teachers, parents and professors to testify about the damage that standardized testing does to those that need a real education most. Besides the State required tests, HISD has been doing benchmark testing for years adding to the testing mania. At some campuses benchmarks are given on a 2-3 week cycle. CVPE just last week spoke again before the Board requesting limits on this and pushing for HISD to track and report the time and expenses related to benchmarking. This is a district that slashed nearly 1,000 staff two years ago and then adopted a TNTP inspired teacher appraisal tool within months that required way more of everyone left.

Texans are realizing that we’ve been doing the accountability thing the longest, (spending 90 million a year on testing alone!) and have little to show for it. The spending inequity is stark in Texas and to think of all the services and opportunities that we could have provided to kids that went to Pearson’s bottom line is heartbreaking.

The first school I worked at in Houston was on the East Side and already by the late 1990’s the band was gone. The school paper eliminated. The auto tech space was being converted into classrooms for the extra math and reading teachers and tutors that were on their way. I scratched my head thinking that a healthy journalism program would be great way to inspire kids to write. Administration decided that workbooks were the way to go. Wealthier schools and districts did not do this as parents would not have stood for it. Those schools and districts are still doing fine. In suburban Dallas, Allen High School is about to break ground on a 60 million dollar football stadium. Man, what I could have done with a piece of Pearson’s 90 million or Allen’s 60 million.

Make those calls to your representatives and then to Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhearst. They need to hear from real Texans, not Bloomberg, Broad, Gates and Waltons.”