Archives for category: Pearson

I received an email from a person in a foreign country; I am not free to identify the name of the informant or the country as I do not want the informant to be fired. I have deleted the names of the two university students who were investigated. Both have fewer than 100 twitter followers. Frankly, I find this level of scrutiny of individuals by a huge multinational corporation to be shocking.

The message reads as follows:

Diane I work for a company in XXXX that Pearson has retained to spy on students.

Find attached the text of the kind of surveillance in place – It’s run at Pearson by some guy called Marc Lueck – he’s an American living in the UK. He runs the Pearson threat team and that’s how he views these kids, as threats. He wants to spend more and more money monitoring the internet and has retained a number of comapnies around the world. We call him the childcatcher. You can see from the text that Pearson and this Marc guy are expending real money and resources to make sure no stones are unconvered. I have kids and what these guys are doing is wrong – I want to track down hackers and criminals not spy on kids. We state in the report that these kids pose no threat to Pearson but Pearson wants us to keep monitoring them.

I could lose my job for this, but I thought you should know.

[NOTE: AT THE ADVICE OF READER FLERP!, I REMOVED THE REPORT TO PEARSON. THERE WERE ITEMS IN THE REPORT THAT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED A SNOOP TO TRACK DOWN THE PARTIES INVOLVED. I DON’T WANT TO GET THEM IN TROUBLE. WE LEARNED LAST SPRING THAT PEARSON HAS AN OPERATION TO WATCH FACEBOOK, TWITTER, AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA SITES FOR ANY MENTION OF THEIR TESTS OR TEST ITEMS. SO, MAYBE IT IS NO SURPRISE TO LEARN THAT THIS IS A BIG DEAL FOR THE TESTING CORPORATIONS.]

Fred Klonsky’s blog carries a post by retired educator Sandra Deines about a fateful decision in Illinois:

“Starting this fall Pearson will be in the business of deciding who becomes a teacher in the state of Illinois.

“The Illinois State Board of Education has adopted a rule that designates Pearson’s “edTPA” as the means by which student teachers will be evaluated and granted certification.

“As the fall semester begins, all student teachers in the state will be required to pay an extra $300 (on top of the tuition they are already paying) and arrange for videotaping so that they can submit a lengthy narrative that covers the planning, execution and evaluation of a series of lessons with one of their classes as well as a ten-minute video of themselves carrying out their lesson with a class.

“Student teachers are required to get parent permission for their children to be video-taped.

“Pearson owns the video.

“Once submitted to Pearson, an “evaluator” will apply rubrics and 2-3 hours of their time to decide whether or not the student teacher “passes” and can be licensed to teach by the State of Illinois.

“That’s right—no longer will the evaluations of cooperating teachers, university field instructors and education professors determine the success of a student teacher.”

To learn about how to resist the Pearson takeover of teacher certification in Illinois, read the test of the post.

Pearson has sold two of its premier publications–the Financial Times and The Economist–to focus on education.

“The Financial Times and The Economist were sold to help Pearson’s push into education become “one of the great global growth stories of the next decade,” the company’s chief executive told CNBC.”

“Despite its lengthy ownership of the Financial Times and its stake in the Economist Group (owner of The Economist magazine), Pearson has focused on consolidating its place as the world’s leading education company in recent years. It offers a range of public school exams as well as online and traditional educational resources for schools, universities and professionals.

“We are tying our future to what I think is going to be one of the great global growth stories of the next decade,” John Fallon told CNBC on Friday.
“Parents in countries around the world, rich and poor, the single thing that matters to them most is equipping their kids with the skills and the knowledge to go to university, to learn English as a foreign language, because that’s what’s going to get them a better job and a better start in life and that’s what we’re lining Pearson up to and it’s a huge opportunity for us.”

Leonie Haimson, writing on the NYC Parents Blog, wonders whether the New York state tests contain questions as embarrassing as the infamous “Pineapple and the Hare” story, which caused a great national controversy in 2012. Haimson broke the story, and it was covered by almost every national media outlet.

Stay tuned. When Pearson asks a third-grade question about a reading passage that even the author can’t answer, there is a problem. Ya think?

A few days ago, I posted a statement by a teacher-candidate of Hispanic origin who was trying to get certification as a teacher of special education. She had a high grade point average, she took and passed several state-required tests, at great expense, but she could not pass the edTPA. And she could not afford to pay Pearson again. As a result of the post here, she was contacted by someone in the Néw York State Education Department (I supplied her contact information). Several readers offered to pay the cost of taking an alternate assessment. Someone helped her.

 

The woman who wrote the post sent me this email:

 

“I cannot thank you enough for providing me with a platform to express myself freely and share it with the public! After that post, I shortly received a voucher to take the safety net test. None of this would have been possible without your help. I was just trying to raise awareness of the exploitative practices and fees from Pearson. I think the amount of tests and the prices were exaggerated. If teacher candidates are expected to pass more challenging exams at expensive rates while obtaining a Master’s Degree then they should be paid accordingly. Again, thank you for your time and efforts! It will never be forgotten.”

Alan Singer attended a conference in Madrid, where he delivered a paper called “Hacking Away at the Pearson Octopus.” He writes that the movement to break Pearson’s stranglehold on education is indeed global.

 

In April, protesters from teacher unions and global justice groups stormed the gates at Pearson’s annual general meeting held in London. Protesters accused Pearson of turning education into a commodity and profiting from low-fee private schools in poverty-stricken regions of Africa and India. They claimed is making millions by privatizing education in the global south. Pearson’s Chief Executive Officer John Fallon, forced to respond to dissidents, declared his enthusiastic “support free public education for every child around the world.” However he did not offer to provide Pearson’s educational services for free….

 

A joint letter from Great Britain’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the organization Global Justice Now, declared “From fuelling the obsessive testing regimes that are the backbone of the ‘test and punish’ efforts in the global north, to supporting the predatory, ‘low-fee’ for-profit private schools in the global south, Pearson’s brand has become synonymous with profiteering and the destruction of public education.”

 

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “School curricula should not be patented and charged for. Tests should not distort what is taught and how it is assessed. Unfortunately, as the profit motive embeds itself in education systems around the world, these fundamental principles come under ever greater threat leading to greater inequality and exclusion for the most disadvantaged children and young people.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, added the voice of American teachers to the protest movement. “We fight this kind of profit making to get kids a good education and fight for governments which gives students a high quality education…..’

 

According to Kishore Singh of India who works for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

“At the beginning of the new millennium, the international community made a commitment to achieve universal primary education for all boys and girls. Today, 15 years later, we find huge gaps between these commitments and reality. Across the world, 58 million children still don’t have access to schools, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Millions more fail to graduate, or fail to learn what they need to participate in society meaningfully. Capitalising on the inability of governments to cope with rising demands on public learning, private education providers are mushrooming. I see this not as progress, but as an indictment of governments that have failed to meet their obligation to provide universal, free and high-quality education for all. Education is not a privilege of the rich and well-to-do; it is the inalienable right of every child. The state must discharge its responsibility as guarantor and regulator of education as a fundamental human entitlement and as a public cause. The provision of basic education, free of cost, is not only a core obligation of states but also a moral imperative.”

 

Singer repeats:

 
“The provision of basic education, free of cost, is not only a core obligation of states but also a moral imperative.” A very good reason to hack away at the Pearson octopus.

 

 

 

 

An email arrived from a woman of Hispanic origin. It speaks for itself:

 

I am a big fan of your blog. It is so insightful and relevant to what is happening with our educational system. I am a teacher candidate and I am so discouraged by the edTPA. I recently received my master’s degree in special education with a 3.475 grade point average and passed the EAS, ALST, Multi-Content Specialty Exams (which are 3 tests ELA, Math, Science) and CST Disabilities. But I can’t get my license because I can’t pass the edTPA. I have completely exhausted all my funds and can’t afford to take the safety-net ATS-W exam. I put my life on the line to enter a profession in which I am strongly pushed out of. I really enjoyed my student teaching and found it very challenging to work in an under served public school. I taught students who were homeless, in foster care or whose parents were incarcerated. The assistant principal commented how well the students responded to me and were actually upset when I left. After much thought and informal interviews conducted with my students, I discovered why they responded so well to me. I looked like them.

 

In public schools we push so hard for these students to rise from their neighborhoods and succeed in life. But this is why they don’t believe this goal can be achieved; they don’t see anyone who looks like them actually make it out of the neighborhood. All they know is that if they become an athlete or rapper they can get out of their neighborhood because those are the only role models they are provided with. When they go to school, they do not see any African-American or Hispanic teachers and because of that they cannot fathom the idea of continuing their education to college. With tests like edTPA and the rising costs of the NYSTCE exams, minorities are further pushed out of this profession. After student teaching for 4 months without pay and using what little funds I had on expensive exams, I was brought to financial ruin and nearly lost my house to foreclosure. No career path should bring you to economic ruin.

 

Not only did Pearson break my wallet they also broke my spirit. As much as I loved teaching, I don’t feel welcomed by the teaching profession. I tried applying for vouchers, but I did not qualify. The questions on the teaching exams are not biased. But when you make testing unaffordable and only certain kinds of people can afford them, that is when it becomes bias! NYS, I read your message loud and clear. You clearly don’t want me in this profession. No job should raise the requirements to a level that is almost unattainable and not have a salary to compensate for it. The state wants me to complete edTPA, which is like the bar exam for lawyers. However when lawyers pass the bar, they are offered jobs that pay from $80,000-$167,000 a year while teachers’ starting salaries range from $47,000-$72,000. If NYS wants teachers to become more professional, they should pay like one. Sorry for my rant but I felt you would understand my frustrations. No one else seems to agree with me. All I find on the internet is how great they think the edTPA is and how easy it was for them to pass and that all scorers are qualified certified teachers. Just because you are a certified teacher hired by Pearson does not mean you are a highly effective teacher. How do I know that the teachers scoring edTPA are highly effective teachers? This seems to be the question of the day and my dilemma.

 

Sincerely from a teacher candidate who will never become certified and have a MsED but can’t teach,

This report is a fascinating and scary analysis of Pearson’s ambitious efforts to create a demand for their products around the world and to satisfy that demand while making profits.

It is called “Pearson and PALF. The Mutating Giant,” and it was written by Carolina Jünemann and Stephen Ball. It shines a much needed light on the international ambitions of the privatization movement and the commercializing of education as a consumer good. It is worth your time to read this important report. Arm yourself with knowledge and information.

It begins:

Education is big business. There are global, national and local businesses all seeking to profit from education and educational services. Increasingly, business, education policy and what it means to be educated are intimately intertwined.

Pearson is the world’s largest edu-business. Over the last 10 years Pearson has been involved in a process of re-invention, leading to its re-branding in 2014 as a ‘learning’ company with a vision, summed up in the strapline ‘always learning’, and with the aim of contributing to “the very highest standards in education around the world.”

This transition has at least two aspects to it. The first relates to Pearson’s repositioning of the brand as a social purpose company, one which portrays itself as having a positive, and measurable, impact on society, that of “help(ing) more people make measurable progress in their lives through learning”. The other relates to Pearson seeking to position itself as an increasingly powerful global policy actor in education – “to playing an active role in helping shape and inform the global debate around education and learning policy” (2012 annual report p. 39). But as Pearson is contributing to the global education policy debate, it is also reconfiguring the education policy problems that will then generate new markets for its products and services in the form of educational ‘solutions’.

In 2012, Michael Barber Pearson’s Chief Education Adviser, previously Head of the UK’s Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (2001-2005) launched PALF (the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund) as a for-profit venture fund to support and encourage the development and expansion of affordable learning school chains in developing countries.

The creation of PALF is an integral part of the repositioning of Pearson as a global company rather than one focused strongly on European and the US markets. It fits into Pearson’s business strategy of venturing into new markets (geographical) and uncovering new market opportunities, in this case, a new market segment (socio-economic), moving the company away from its traditional position as mid-market and high-end operator in education. PALF has been created to develop an unconventional market niche – the need and ambition of the poor in developing countries to give their children a good education.

The main focus of investment in PALF’s first phase of activity was for-profit Low Fee Private School (LFPS) chains. PALF’s first investment was in Omega Schools, a chain of Low Fee Private Schools operating in Ghana. Another is Affordable Private Education Centres (APEC), a chain of low-cost secondary schools in the Philippines. A third investment within the LFPS chain sector in 2014 is eAdvance, a company that manages the first South African blended learning low fee school chain called Spark schools.

However, PALF’s initial focus on Low Fee Private School chains has been inhibited by the absence of appropriate investment opportunities – sustainable, innovative businesses that could provide the expected financial returns. This has resulted in a recent shift in PALF’s scope to include a more general mix of investments and a broader focus on commercial education ‘solutions’ that, as Pearson explains, “might involve new business models, investing in new technology, or testing innovative partnerships or distribution channels” (Pearson plc, 2014, p. 56).

As part of this change of focus, in March 2014 PALF made an equity investment in Zaya Learning Labs and another in Avanti Learning Centres, a provider of college entrance exam preparation for students of low-income families through a pedagogic approach based on peer-to-peer learning and self-study, both in India. This kind of investment, as those in Ed-tech more generally, also facilitate, and illustrate, the increased used of non-teacher based or blended learning pedagogies.

An important aspect of PALF’s outcomes driven ‘demonstration’ work is related to the role of technology as an enabler of scale through delivery cost savings, that is, by reducing the reliance on qualified teachers as the primary medium of instruction. There are complex and over-lapping profit opportunities in the technology – teaching equation. This has profound implications for the role of teachers. The commitments and functions of the teacher are increasingly narrowed to include only those deemed necessary for enhancing performance and outcomes, at the same time as teachers are residualised and ‘de-professionalised’.

Laura H. Chapman, a frequent contributor to the blog, raises some important points about Common Core test and its reach into kindergarten and into the future:

 

 

You should be aware that PARCC tests are in the works for Kindergarten. They are called “formative tasks.” They are more accurately labeled “Tests for Tykes. You can find a draft of the exam for reading informational text as called for in the Common Core category at http://parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20DRAFT%20K-1%20Prototype%20ELA%20K_Reading_Spring_Informational%20Texts.pdf

 

The test is completely embedded in fully scripted lessons for the teacher. Judging from the reproducible worksheets designed for students, the test makers seem to assume that by the Spring of the school year, Kindergarten students will have learned, or been taught, to write complete sentences (with the proper heights of letters). They will also know how to color in a drawing of a fish. All of the questions are based on one “informational text” about fish. Additional plans are in the works for at least three more kindergarten tests, all of them called “formative tasks.”

 

There is a real mazy-hazy problem with retrieving trustworthy information about testing materials on line. For example “parcc.pearson.com” seems to be as authoritative as “parcconline.org/parcc-assessment‎. Then there is parcconline.org where you will find 194 pages of information prepared in 2012 by Achieve, Inc. and the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, the latter an organization lead by Sir Michael Barber, of Great Britain, and also the chief education advisor to Pearson. The lines bewteen the federally financed tests developed by PARCC and Pearson’s pursuit of profits is not at all clear.

 

Readers should know that parcc.com has test-prep materials for kindergarten math. They are called “games” and they are the product of a cartoon company in Great Britain, complete with audios in a British accent http://parccgames.com/?page_id=25 . The bottom of the page on the games website says: “This site is intended to match students and teachers with the most effective games for reinforcing Common Core curriculum.” Of course, there is no single curriculum for the Common Core.

 

At http://www.corecommonstandards.com/common-core/kindergarten-common-core-workbooks, you can find three “Common Core Assessment Workbooks” —test prep materials for Kindergarten, I kid you not. Another version of test prep for Kindergartener is discussed by a master educator who has a personal stake in the test-em-til-they drop ethos created by federal and state policies. Go to http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/11/26/my-daughters-kindergarten-common-core-math-workbook/

 

Not to be outdone by the PARCC tests, and CCSS, The Maryland State Department of Education, has PreKindergarten Common Core standards!!! These “specify the mathematics that all students should study as they begin preparing to be college and career ready by graduation.“ The language in these extrapolated standards is so exotic that the writers of the publication had to color-code the language in the standards. See http://mdk12.org/share/frameworks/CCSC_Math_grpk.pdf

 

So there are more Common Core tests in the works, Kindergarten and perhaps preschool, multiple tests, every year. They are coupled with a cockamamie idea that the Common Core Standards and associated tests are perfect predictors and guarantors of college and career readiness of children in grades K-12, who may survive the testing regime and graduate in 2025-2028…Meanwhile a new Cngress is uncertain whether to say “college OR career,” or “colege AND career.”

 

The promoters of this belief system and agenda for public schools seem to think that this generation should be locked in a time capsule of ideas and tests. This frozen–in-time agenda for American education has been embedded in federal and state legislation as if to say: There are no paths to useful and rewarding work and the good life, except as set forth in the first decade of this century when these standards were written. The writers said, in effect, there is no need for educators, or parents, or students to think about what life offers and may require beyond passing these tests, getting a job, and going to college. Pathetic.

 

This is the awful mind-trap that has been set for this generation. Parents and teachers who will not comply with these tests know that the test scores are not 100% faithful and true predictors of life outcomes. For having this warranted knowledge and wisdom, they are being threatened by the purveyors of the non-sense.

 

Parents who are lawyers or who have access to legal help may want to look at whether districts are in full compliance with FERPA, the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, and especially with COPPA—the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, not the US Department of Education.
The primary goal of COPPA is to allow parents to have control over what information is collected online “from their children” under age 13.

 

The FTC “consumer protection office” appears to be getting a batch of questions about the PARCC/Pearson relationship and specifically the on-line testing environment where Pearson—a commercial contractor—is empowered to get personal information from tests and social media websites.

 

You will find a lively discussion there, along with a clear indication that this matter is just now beginning to show up on the radar screen of a lot of people, especially those who say that parents have no legal right to opt-out. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2015/01/testing-testing-review-session-coppa-schools

Peter Greene brings us back to the halcyon days when central planners at the U.S. Department of Education dreamed of one big set of national standards–the Common Core–and two testing consortia, both dependent on the same set of standards. The Gates Foundation funded the Common Core and continues to fund various organizations to advocate for it and to “demand” annual testing mandates. The federal government funded the two testing groups–PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment–with $360 million of our taxpayer dollars.

 

It turns out not to have been a sound investment. PARCC started with 24 (or 25) states in its consortium, and more than half those states have abandoned the Pearson-made PARCC. With Ohio’s exit from PARCC, the number is down now to 10 states plus D.C. Some of those 10 are likely to drop PARCC. The technological problems have been extremely annoying, and the amount of time required for the testing (8 to 11 hours) is burdensome. Here is a question: Why is it that teachers can give a 45-minute test in reading and math and find out what their students know, but PARCC requires 8 to 11 hours to get the same information.

 

The market for PARCC has shrunk so dramatically that Peter Greene thinks it is only a matter of time until Pearson executives decide that the tests are not worth their time, the revenue stream is too small, and bye-bye PARCC.

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