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.