Archives for category: Pearson

Randi Weingarten is on her way to speak at the Network for Public Education’s second annual conference in Chicago this weekend.

But she detoured to London to attend the Pearson shareholder meeting. She took the opportunity to tell Pearson to stop spying on children through their social media accounts. And she requested that Pearson stop lobbying and making campaign contributions to politicians for the sake of their testing business.

I am not sure that the folks at Prstson ever heard such straight talk.

Minnesota testing was briefly halted when Pearson servers became overloaded–were they not expecting so many students?–and a “denial-of-service” hacker broke into the system.

“An overloaded processor and a “malicious denial-of-service attack” led to the shutdown Tuesday of Minnesota’s statewide student testing system, the state’s testing contractor said Wednesday.

“Pearson, the testing company, apologized for the problems and said the system had been repaired. By late morning, though, Minnesota Department of Education officials were not yet ready to give the all-clear.

“We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly,” department spokesman Josh Collins said.”

In an age when hackers can break into the computer systems of major corporations, can Pearson expect to remain immune?

Marla Kilfoyle is a National Board Certified Teacher and a leader of the Badass Teachers Association. She is also the parent of a 12-year-old public school student. She was surprised to hear Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch say that teachers and parents need the state tests because of their diagnostic value. In this post, she explains to Chancellor Tisch why the state tests have no diagnostic value. Her post contains a typical state test report to parents. It was returned months after the test, when the student has a new teacher. It has scores on it, but no description of the student’s weaknesses or strengths in any particular area. In the example she gives, the parents learn that their child scored a 1, the lowest ranking, but nothing about where the child needs extra help.

She compares the lack of diagnostic information on the New York State report to another test administered to students. It is called WIAT (Wechsler Individual Test). This test breaks down each student’s test performance on specific skills. It is returned to parents in less than a month. (The WIAT is owned by Pearson, which also created the non-informative New York annual tests.)

Kilfoyle is upset by Chancellor Tisch’s description of the opt out movement as a labor dispute. The many thousands of parents whose children refused the tests were not acting on behalf of the teachers’ union. They were acting as parents concerned about subjecting their children to a useless test.

In what can only be called a blistering editorial, LOHUD–the newspaper of the Lower Hudson Valley in New York–called for Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the Board of Regents, to step aside because of her failure to communicate with parents and to insulate educational decision-making from the Governor. Tisch is a gracious person from a philanthropic family, but she has been the leader of the hated testing regime, convinced that testing will close achievement gaps. But, as we know after a dozen years of No Child Left Behind, tests measure achievement gaps, they don’t close them. The editorial board at LOHUD correctly understands that the opt out movement is not an effort by parents’ to shield their children from bad news (or, as Arne Duncan insultingly said, “white suburban moms” who are disappointed that their child is not so “brilliant” after all), but is a resounding vote in opposition to the state’s forced implementation of Common Core without adequate preparation and to its heavy reliance on testing as the primary vehicle for “reform.” The switch to Common Core testing–where the vocabulary level is two-three years above grade level and the passing mark is absurdly high–produced ridiculous failing rates in 2013 and 2014 that unfairly punished all students, but especially English language learners, children with disabilities, and black and Hispanic students, whose failure rates were staggering. Since we now know that these tests produce no information other than a score, it is misleading to claim that the results help children or guide instruction. They offer no benefit to any student and will be used to penalize their teachers unfairly. The editorial recognizes that many parents and educators fear that the tests are being used to advance a privatization agenda, although the writer doubts that it is true. Having seen claims by proponents of Common Core testing that the results would drive suburban parents to demand charters and vouchers, I am inclined to think that the concerns about privatization are well-founded, not a conspiracy theory. We have been testing children every year since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002; if tests created equity, we would know it by now. After all these years of testing, we know which students need smaller classes and extra help. Why are we not doing more to help them instead of doubling down on the stakes attached to testing?

Governor Cuomo loudly proclaimed his intention to break up what he calls “the public school monopoly,” and the Regents have not resisted the governor’s demands. They have meekly pursued a high-stakes testing strategy, and the Legislature shamefully acquiesced to the Governor’s anti-teacher, anti-public education demands. Under these circumstances, the opt out movement is the voice of democracy. The numbers are not final yet (the state won’t release them), but about 200,000 students refused the tests. This, despite the fact that state officials and many superintendents issued warnings and threats to damp down the opt outs. The numbers could grow higher this week when three days of math testing begin.

Skeptics will say that only 15% of students opted out. Expect their numbers to grow if leaders ignore them. We heard the same skeptics during the civil rights movement, who called its leaders “outside agitators,” we heard it during the anti-Vietnam war movement, when President Nixon appealed to “the silent majority.” The brave, the bold, and the principled step forward when rights are trampled, and government acts without the consent of the governed.

The opt out movement is the only way that the public can makes its voice heard. It is indeed a powerful voice. Now, when people who are disgusted with the corporate reform ask, “What can I do? I feel powerless,” there is an answer. Don’t let your child take the tests. Don’t feed the machine. Don’t give them the data that makes the machine hum. Contrary to their claims, the testing does not help children; it does not improve instruction. There is no value to these tests other than to rank and rate children, grade their teachers and their schools, and set them up for firings or closings.

The LOHUD editorial says:

The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership.

Even as the numbers showed clear dissatisfaction with the path and pace of education “reform” in New York, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch downplayed the opt-out movement, and painted parents as confused patsies of a labor action, a misreading of the facts.

The Board of Regents sets educational policy for our state. The board needs a strong leader who is willing to guide education policy, communicate the mission clearly and stand up to meddling politicians. Merryl Tisch should cede leadership of the board and allow a fresh start for the board, and for education policy in New York.

We do not take this position lightly. Tisch is a dedicated public servant who has used her family’s influence to do immeasurable good. She has promoted New York’s “reform” agenda because she believes it is the right thing to do, particularly to help children in urban schools.

But our state leadership has failed to sell its brand of change, and the fallout has been dramatic and potentially debiliating to the entire system. The arrogance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Education Commissioner John King and, yes, Tisch, has alienated too many parents and educators. The people who are responsible for educating our children each day – classroom teachers, principals, administrators, school board members – have railed for years against state policies that drive up local costs but fail to improve instruction…..

It is a sad state of affairs when many committed, accomplished educators now believe that Albany’s true goal is “privatization” – or proving their contention that New York’s schools and teachers are failing so that more tax dollars can be driven to charter schools and mega-corporation, Pearson Inc. Are such conspiracy theories true? We doubt it. But mainstream acceptance shows state education leaders’ failure to communicate what they are trying to do. And blame for that lands squarely at the feet of the head of the Board of Regents, Tisch.

Alan Singer offers seven sensible reasons to refuse to make your child take the state tests.


I will give you the reasons, and you should read his post to see his explanation.


1. The opt out movement is winning (see the Senate NCLB reauthorization bill)


2. Even Arne Duncan seems to be backing off.


3. Some politicians are still trying to divide us (don’t let them)


4. We must support parents, students, and teachers in states where they are being threatened.


5. It is not clear that standardized tests have any educational or even assessment value.


6. Teachers report poor test design.


7. Alan Singer is tired of subsidizing the mega-rich corporations like Pearson that are making money by testing children.



The Pearson server crashed in Colorado as tens of thousands of students were taking online assessments in science and social studies.

It was not what you would call an opt out, but it had the same effect. The Brave Néw World of online assessment is not quite ready for prime time.

Nicholas Tampio, political science professor at Fordham University, here explains the profit-driven ambitions of Pearson and the philosophy of Michael Barber, the chief academic officer of Pearson. It is no surprise that Pearson looks to the American testing market as a cash cow. It is no surprise that it hires the best lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and in the key state capitols. It is no surprise that it is extending its reach across the globe, trying to persuade other nations that they need standardized tests to measure children and adults.


But what you need to read about is Michael Barber’s driving ideology, which he summarized in his book “Deliverology.”


We can learn more about Pearson and its sweeping vision for the future by turning to a 2011 book by the company’s chief academic officer, Michael Barber. In “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders,” he lays out his philosophy and, unintentionally, reveals why parents, teachers and politicians must do everything they can to break Pearson’s stranglehold on education policy around the world.


Barber has worked on education policy for British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as for McKinsey & Co. “Deliverology,” written with assistance from two other McKinsey experts, is clearly inflected by the worldview of management consulting.


The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.


Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”


In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.


Barber believes in the “alchemy of relationships,” or the power of a small group of people working together to enact structural change. For example, Barber applauds Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program for providing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform public education in America,” including through the Common Core. Barber’s book offers leaders advice on how to implement the Common Corestandards that Pearson employees helped write.


Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s motto “Don’t tell me what, tell me how,” Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics — e.g., standardized test scores — to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the world’s largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.


This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.


Deliverology even instructs leaders how to respond to common excuses from people who object to education reform.


“Deliverology” is a field guide — or a battle plan — showing education reformers how to push ahead through all resistance and never have second thoughts. As Barber quotes Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Parents and teachers who do not want to adapt to the new state of affairs are branded “defenders of the status quo.” Barber ends the book by telling reformers to stick with their plans but acknowledge the emotional argument of opponents: “I understand why you might be angry; I would not enjoy this if it were happening to me either.”


The best way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the “deliverologists” is to resist. Opt out. Refuse the test. Join with other parents to resist. Say no. Don’t let Pearson define your child.





A group of activist parents have turned the tide against high-stakes testing in Texas. They organized, informed themselves, informed others, and button-holed their state legislators about the overuse and misuse of testing in Texas’s public schools. Because of their activities and their persistence, they persuaded the legislators to reduce the number of tests needed to graduate. They are continuing their campaign by exposing the cost and continued overuse of standardized testing.


The group is called TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, but admirers often call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.”


They created a powerpoint to explain their concerns.


The powerpoint can be seen here. Watch it and consider doing the same thing in your state. If we organize and mobilize like TAMSA, we can turn around legislatures across the nation.

I recently posted testing expert Fred Smith’s discovery that several test questions on New York’s Common Core exam had “disappeared.”

Susan Edelman of the Néw York Post read Fred Smith’s article and went searching for the answer. She found it.

“These tests were rotten to the Common Core.

“Student performance on four questions on the much-ballyhooed state English Language Arts exams was secretly scrubbed by state ­education officials because too many students didn’t answer them or were confused by them.

“After the tests were given last April 1-3, the state decided to eliminate the results of one multiple-choice question on the seventh-grade ELA exam, two on the third-grade ELA exam, and a four-point essay on the third-grade test.
Six of 55 points were whacked from the third-grade test.

“The axed essay question, called a “constructive response,” aimed to gauge a prime goal of the Common Core standards — whether students think critically and write cohesively, citing evidence from a text to support their ideas.

“They produced a defective product, and don’t want you to know about it,” said Fred Smith, a former city test analyst who discovered the missing items.

“In touting an uptick in scores last August, the state didn’t mention the erased results. The number of city kids rated “proficient” increased 2.9 percent from 2013 on the third-grade ELA test and 3.9 percent on the seventh-grade test.”

In short, by removing these four questions, the State Education Department produced a slight increase in scores, which enabled then-State Commissioner John King to assert that the state was making progress.

Ever wonder who does the fun job of reading your children’s tweets, Facebook pages, and Instagrams? Stephanie Simon has done the investigative work, on behalf of, but really on behalf of parents and children across America.

In the new age of Common Core and online testing, student privacy is dead.

Simon visits companies that do the “monitoring.” She calls them “Common Core’s cyber-spies.”

She writes:

“Pearson is hardly the only company keeping a watchful eye on students.

“School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags.

“A dozen states have tried to limit cyber snooping by banning either colleges or K-12 schools, or both, from requesting student user names and passwords, which could be used to pry open social media accounts protected by privacy settings. Among those taking action: California, Illinois, Michigan and Utah.

“At least five other states, among them New York and Maryland, are considering similar laws this session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“But such laws protect only accounts marked as private. Many kids post publicly to build up their online followings.

“And when they do, companies with names like Social Sentinel, Geo Listening, Varsity Monitor and UDiligence are there to read them.
The rise of online student monitoring comes at a time of rising parent protests against other forms of digital surveillance — namely, the vast quantities of data that technology companies collect on kids as they click through online textbooks, games and homework. Companies providing those online resources can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day. Much of that information is not protected by federal privacy law.”

Think of it: these companies “can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day.”

And that’s not all:

“Some of the monitoring software on the market can track and log every keystroke a student makes while using a school computer in any location, including at home…..

“Sometimes the monitoring is covert: One company advertises that its surveillance software, known as CompuGuardian, can run on “stealth mode.” At the other extreme, some high schools and colleges explicitly warn students that they are being watched and advise them not to cling to “a false sense of security about your rights to freedom of speech.”

Privacy is dead. Privacy is dead. Yes, your children are being watched. Companies you never heard of have collected vast amounts of information about them.

As the CEO of Sun Microsystems famously said in 1999, “you have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

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