Archives for category: Pearson

This article was distributed by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

“Dr. Barbara Brothers, Dean Emeritus, Youngstown State University, and current chair of the Education Committee of the Greater Youngstown League of Women Voters, is looking into the Pearson operation in Ohio and wrote what she has found thus far.

Ohio, a Pearson State

The Pearson Corporation is a multi-billion dollar United Kingdom enterprise which has grown from a construction company to include newspapers, entertainment enterprises such as amusement parks, and book publishers among its holdings. In 2000 Pearson spent $2.5 billion to acquire an American testing company in an effort to increase its profits through securing contracts to produce standardized tests and test preparation materials
(http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/pearson-education-115026.html). It has been given enormous control over K-12 public schools in Ohio by the Ohio legislature and governor.

Pearson effectively controls what is taught, who graduates, and even who gets a second chance at a high school diploma through the General Education Diploma (GED) examination. Recently Comcast was prevented from acquiring Time Warner because the federal government determined that Comcast’s control of 60% of the market was too great. But that market share pales compared to the 100% Pearson has been granted by the State of Ohio.

Since 2013, Pearson tests even license teachers in Ohio. Because the tests are designed and graded by Pearson, the company and its employees determine what teachers need to know in all particular teaching fields-English, science, history. Colleges must address what Pearson puts on the tests so that their students will be licensed to teach in Ohio initially and, later, when a teacher seeks professional advancement.

By 2018, Pearson end of course exams in designated subjects in grades 9 -12–PARCC Tests–will determine if a student receives an Ohio high school diploma. PARCC tests-Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and careers-are to be based on Common Core State Standards (CCSS), developed with primary input from Pearson.

In January of 2014 Pearson produced a revised GED exam—a new version of the GED that is to be taken entirely on-line. The pass rate fell 90 percent because the test now measures college readiness rather than what was actually learned in high school.

Pearson controls the curriculum by defining the knowledge and skills a student must master. Pearson assures us the CCSS will be rigorous; i.e. that at least thirty percent or more of students taking the tests will fail. An educator such as Dr. Louisa Moats, who was a contributing writer of CCSS, is just one of many of those critical of the jump to test and fail (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-development-central/201401/when-will-we-ever-learn). These standards for which Pearson oversaw the development, helped by tax free money such as an $88 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, in turn require the development and selling of both on-line materials and textbooks to prepare the teacher to teach to the test. Pearson produces the materials from which the teachers teach and the tests that tell us if they have performed satisfactorily. In Ohio they have no competitors. If your school “fails” then send your child to a Connections Academy, a Pearson for-profit Charter advertised on their GED webpage.

Teachers, parents, and concerned citizens have criticized the tests on a number of grounds-the number of tests, the time the tests take, the appropriateness of the questions, the secrecy about the test questions, the spying on students’ social media, the use of the tests for punishment, teaching to the test, the ignoring of the arts, the expense and failure of the technology for administering the tests, and the tremendous cost to taxpayers. The mania for testing and collecting volumes of data are destroying our education system and creating a world of big profits for the Pearson corporation and Big Brother-ism–all approved by our Ohio Legislature and Governor and supported by Federal legislation-No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Richard Ham, a third grade teacher in Poulsbo, Washington, wrote the following dystopian science fiction (education fiction?) about the aftermath of the Presidential election of 2028. It is frightening and hilarious.

 

 

April 17, 2028
The Associated Press
The American public education reform wars are finally over. President Arne Duncan took the oath of office in January as this nation’s 49th president and in his inauguration speech he praised the efforts over the past 30 years of big business, corporate testing corporations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and all the others responsible for what, in his words, amounted to a “cleansing of wishy-washy liberal teaching practices, unionism as an obstructive force in public schools and of incompetent, overpaid public school teachers doing great and terrible damage to this fine Nation’s school children.” He pledged that his newly appointed Secretary of Education, Michelle Rhee, will finish the job started so long ago and fine-tune and perfect the few rough spots that remain in bringing “rational public and pedagogical policy-making” into American classrooms.
In this spirit Secretary Rhee held a major press conference to herald the completion of the reform movement’s final masterpiece of high-stakes testing and accountability. The Secretary proudly presented the Pearson Corporation’s new third grade test as an example of this brave new world that American education has entered. Below is the third grade test, titled the SimBA, in its entirety.
The SimBA
THE SMARTASS (IM)BALANCED C.C.S.S.* ASSESSMENT for 3rd Grade
*Common Core Corporate Standards
MATHEMATICS: The Reimann Hypothesis dealing with prime numbers is one of the unsolved Millennium Prize problems, first posited over 150 years ago and as yet unsolved despite the best efforts of some of this past century’s finest mathematical minds. You are not expected to prove or disprove this hypothesis per se, but nevertheless do establish the initial parameters of the structure of such a proof (or disproof). Construct such parameters with enough mathematical sufficiency so that the next three steps in such an analysis can be logically and empirically demonstrated. Then do both of your multiplication and division facts in a 2-minute timing for each.
Time: 25 minutes
MUSIC: Write a concerto for a 4-piece chamber string quartet. Provide a final, clean copy of the sheet music for your composition, free from any stray notational errors. Finally, perform your composition in real time in front of a live audience.
Time: 40 minutes for composition; 10 minutes for performance
ART: Develop a new school of art, melding both traditional and modern elements using multi-media in such a design paradigm. Create at least three examples from your new art school, and host a gallery showing of your creations.
Time: 20 minutes for creation of new art form; 15 minutes for creation of examples; 10 minutes for gallery showing
[Break: 23 minutes total; 3 minutes for potty visit, 5 minutes for snack, 15 minutes for recess]
HISTORY: The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana is famously credited with saying that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In a 20-25 page essay argue either pro or con for this thesis, citing at least three eras in both ancient and modern history where this proposition can be proven to be either true or false. Note: The essay is to contain appropriate cites in standard citation form.
Time: 20 minutes
READING: Read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and the complete works of William Shakespeare. Then write a report comparing and contrasting how the authors handle the structural themes of tragedy and comedy in their respective works.
Time: 40 minutes
WRITING: Write a novella of no more than 80 pages from any of the following genres: mystery, general fiction, Western, historical, romance or fairy tale. Extra credit will be given if you also write a play in the dramatic tragedy tradition of ancient Greece (see the works of Aeschylus or Euripides for guidance in how this might be done).
Time: 25 minutes
SCIENCE: Sketch a timeline of the history of the quantum dynamic elements of the universe from the inception of the Big Bang until the present day era. Extra credit will be given if you can provide correlational elements of such a quantum history with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, especially noting how gravity unites both the quantum and relativistic worlds. Further extra credit will be given if you build a table-sized cyclotron to test your hypothesis using yellowcake uranium. Such yellowcake uranium is available from the Atomic Energy Commission for a small fee; please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery before the testing date.
Time: 20 minutes

Congratulations! Your testing for this year is over. Please go to lunch. And have a great day!

Jason Stanford, long-time observer of politics in Texas, explains here how Pearson lost its nearly $500 million contract, retaining only a $60 million sliver.

After decades of having a lock on the state testing contract, the pushback against high-stakes standardized testing became overwhelming. Local school boards passed resolutions against it; parents organized protests against it. The legislature even passed a law barring lobbyists “from serving on state boards and commissions dealing with accountability.” The target was Sandy Kress, architect of NCLB and Pearson lobbyist.

Once the political aura surrounding Kress and Pearson turned sour, people started questioning the pedagogical theory that measuring the children against the wall makes them taller. Texas rolled out the a new test a few years ago to make all the kids “college and career ready,” huge cuts to state education funding notwithstanding. Since then, test scores have been flat and have largely correlated to parents’ income and differences in school funding.

The legislature saw no problem in cutting school funding by more than $5 billion while awarding Pearson a contract for nearly $500 million. It saw no problem in demanding higher test scores while removing funding. But the public got fed up. It is, says Stanford, the “end of an error.”

Testing expert Fred Smith sends out a warning to parents in Néw York City: Pearson field tests begin Monday.

But keep it a secret. No one knows. The scores don’t count because the tests are testing the questions, not the teachers.

Should parents be told? Shouldn’t they give consent? Should Pearson pay the students?

.

Last weekend I attended a joyous family wedding and thus was preoccupied and failed to notice one of the seminal moments in reformer history. This was Michael Barber’s speech on “Joy and Data.” Barber is the chief education adviser to Pearson, and he gave this speech in Australia, hoping to debunk the claim that an undue emphasis on data takes away the joy of learning. Barber’s goal was to demonstrate that joy and data go together like a horse and carriage.

Valerie Strauss wrote about Barber’s speech here, and Peter Greene did his usual sharp vivisection of Barber’s ideology here. Strauss collects some of the witty Twitter responses to Barber’s speech; Greene contrasts it with Pearson’s activities and Barber’s publications.

Strauss summarizes:

“In his speech, Barber argues that the pursuit of data has wrongly been accused of sucking the creativity out of learning but that in his world view, data and joy are the two elements that will together improve learning systems around the world in the 21st Century.”

Greene says that Barber’s speech was a celebration of Oxymoron Day. He summarizes Barber’s Big Speech:

“The future of education will be more joyful with the embrace of data. Also, don’t get things wrong– the data does not undermine creativity and inspiration, nor does it tell us what to do, nor does it replace professional judgment. And I don’t even know how to link to all the places where Pearson has contradicted all of this. I would be further ahead to find links to Jeb Bush condemning charter schools and Common Core….

“If we lump all of Pearson’s visionary writing together, the picture that emerges is a Brave New World in which every single student’s action is tagged, collected, and run through a computer program that spits out an exact picture of the student’s intellectual, emotional and social development as well as specific instructions on exactly what the teacher (and, in this Brave New World, we’re using that term pretty loosely) should do next with/for/to the student to achieve the results desired by our data overlords.”

Greene is struck by the scary thought that Barber actually believes what he is saying; arguing with him would be like debating a religious fanatic.

As I read this contemplation of joy and data, I found myself wondering whether Mike Barber might be a cyborg. So I started reading about cyborgs and became persuaded that thos is not the right term to describe a man who confuses quantification with emotion. The right word seems to be android.

This cartoon summarizes Jeb Bush’s education record. He is best known for championing high-stakes testing, A-F school grades, supporting Common Core, charters, vouchers, third-grade retention, and anything that. Strips away job protections from teachers. He boasts of the “Florida miracle,” but it refers mostly to 4th grade NAEP scores, which are likely boosted by third-grade retention and by the state’s class-size reduction policy, adopted by popular referendum but opposed by Bush. The miracle disappears by high school, as Florida’s high school graduation rate is below that of Alabama, which had no miracle.

 

David Sirota reported in International Business Times that Jeb Bush steered Florida’s pension funds toward campaign contributors. He also pressed for legislation to shield these contributions from public view.

 

Sirota wrote:

 

Jeb Bush received the request from one of his campaign contributors, a man who made his living managing money: Could the then-governor of Florida make an introduction to state pension overseers? The donor was angling to gain some of the state’s investment for his private fund.

 

It was 2003, still a few years before regulators would begin prosecuting public officials for directing pension investment deals to political allies. Bush obliged, putting the donor, Jon Kislak, in touch with the Florida pension agency’s executive director. Then he followed up personally, according to emails reviewed by the International Business Times, ensuring that Kislak’s proposal was considered by state decision makers.

 

Here was a moment that at once underscored Jeb Bush’s personal attention to political allies and his embrace of the financial industry, which has delivered large donations to his campaigns. Email records show it was one of a series of such conversations Bush facilitated between pension staff and private companies at a time when his administration was shifting billions of dollars of state pension money — the retirement savings for teachers, firefighters and cops — into the control of financial firms.

 

Florida officials say Kislak’s firm was not among the beneficiaries of that shift. But verifying that assertion is virtually impossible for an ordinary citizen by dint of another hallmark of Bush’s governorship: At the same time that he entrusted Wall Street with Florida retirement money, he also championed legislation that placed the state’s pension portfolio behind a wall of secrecy.

 

The anti-privatization organization “In the Public Interest” filed a public records request and obtained emails between Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and public officials. Read them here.

Fred Smith, a veteran testing expert who used to work for the New York City Board of Education, warns parents that Pearson will be administering field tests in the schools in June. He provides a list of schools where the field tests will be given.

He urges parents to opt their children out of the field tests.

The opt out movement is proving to be the most powerful tool that parents have against the whole agenda of test-and-punish “reform” that is being foisted on children and schools, benefiting no one but the testing industry.

Uh-oh. Florida’s end-of-course exams suspended by hackers.

“Interruptions in Florida’s end-of-course biology, civics and U.S. history exams last week came courtesy of outside hackers, a Florida Department of Education spokeswoman told the Gradebook on Monday.

“It was an attempt by an outside party to somehow shut down the system,” spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said. “Pearson figured out what was going on and put a stop to it.”

“The state told schools to delay testing during the disruption, during which students could not log in to take their exams. The system was back up within about two hours.

“This event marked the second time this spring that Florida’s computerized testing fell victim to a denial of service attack. American Institutes for Research servers also were brought down in March, during the administration of Florida Standards Assessments.”

Last night, I watched a Nova program on PBS called “The Rise of the Hackers.” One of the most sophisticated hacks was the work of teenagers.

The only truly secure test is the one written and graded by the classroom teacher. Online testing is not secure, does not reflect what was taught, and generates profits that are extracted from instruction. They are so yesterday.

Pearson just lost most of its Texas testing business.

For the first time in three decades, a new company is poised to develop and administer the state-required exams Texas students begin taking in the third grade.

The state is in negotiations with Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to take over the bulk of the four-year, $340 million student assessment contract, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday. Company Vice President John Oswald said ETS is “privileged and honored” to land the work. Final contracts are still being negotiated.

The London-based Pearson Education has held the state’s largest education-related contract — most recently, a five-year, $468 million deal to provide state exams through 2015 — since Texas began requiring state student assessments in the 1980s. Under the new agreement, the company would still develop the state’s assessments designed for special needs and foreign students. That portion of the contract is worth about $60 million.

Here is the puzzling question: Why did it cost $468 million for a five-year contract with Pearson when New York State pays Pearson “only” $32 million for a five-year contract? Does New York have smarter negotiators? Does Pearson have better lobbyists in Texas than in New York? Does New York get Texas’s used questions? True, Texas has more children than New York, but not 15 times more. Can anyone explain?

Our blog poet writes a poem for Pearson:

Pearson cares deeply…

about what’s in their pocketses

“Stopping by schools on a doughy evening’ (with apologies to Robert Frost)

Whose schools these are I think I know
Their houses are in the village though
They will not see the Pearson test
And see their schools farmed out for dough

The classroom teacher thinks I jest
Reform without an expert guest
Between the test and Common Core
And iPads, VAMs and all the rest

She spots her pink slip on the door
And curses her value-added score
The only other sounds the sweep
Of janitor broom on hallway floor

The pockets are lovely, dark and deep
And I have promi$e$ to keep
And million$ to make before I sleep
And million$ to make before I sleep

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