Lawmakers in the SC Senate have approved second reading of a bill that will force State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex to finally replace the controversial PACT test. This despite heavy political maneuvering by Rex to avoid the change.
An SCRG press release posted on the SC Hotline explains:
Lawmakers and educators have long agreed that PACT ought to be replaced, but Superintendent Jim Rex (D), who campaigned on a promise to reform assessment in 2006, has been unwilling to make the change. Instead, Rex is working with Bob Walker (R) of Spartanburg to push through a controversial bill, dramatically weakening South Carolina’s precedent setting accountability laws.
Thankfully, members of the South Carolina Senate have called Rex’s bluff. Thursday, Senators reached an agreement on an amended version of the House Bill, which includes specific language eliminating the PACT in July of 2008.
“Eliminating the PACT this year frees the state to move forward on a new accountability system,” explained Senator Greg Ryberg, Republican from Aiken. Unlike the House version, the Senate is not looking for the Legislature to micromanage the testing process.
Confusingly, Rex has taken credit for the change, despite the fact that he refused to make the switch himself, and is being forced to do so now.
The real point of contention is how a new test would be developed. Rex was also pushing for a dramatic change to the Education Accountability Act (EAA – the law governing testing) so that while replacing the PACT he could also accomplish some personal goals:
1. weaken state standards to hide failures
2. reward political donors with a specific contract in the legislation
3. ensure little or no new testing data is available during his 2010 political campaign
By changing performance category names, limiting information on school report cards, and rewarding growth rather than absolute performance, Rex’s House bill will accomplish the first goal. The House bill also has specific language dictating the details of the new test, which Rex wants to be created by long-time donor DRC. The Senate version would require Rex to work with the State Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee to devise new specifications, which would hamper DRC’s prospects. Finally, Rex knows that a slow implementation of a new test means no data (or at least no continuity in data) for him to worry about during his 2010 campaign for governor state superintendent.
So, rather than replace PACT his first day in office, Rex has been showboating. This latest round of posturing once again demonstrates how Rex and others in the public education establishment are willing to perpetuate failed policies for personal gain.