Archives for category: Pearson

Parent advocate Leonie Haimson has written an urgent plea to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza. They acknowledge that the test for the “gifted and talented” programs are flawed, they know they need to be replaced, they know that it is wrong to test children as young as 4, but they are giving the test anyway. Haimson says, STOP NOW!

Haimson writes:

Last week, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carranza announced that they will administer the controversial and problematic test for admissions to “gifted and talented” classes this spring, for perhaps a final year. Then: 

“We will spend the next year engaging communities around what kind of programming they would like to see that is more inclusive, enriching, and truly supports the needs of academically advanced and diversely talented students at a more appropriate age… We will also engage communities around how best to integrate enriched learning opportunities to more students, so that every student – regardless of a label or a class that they are in – can access rigorous learning that is tailored to their needs and fosters their creativity, passion, and strengths.” 

Yet the question arises as to why they will continue to give these exams to children as young as four years old at all. They are exams that few respected researchers believe are either valid or reliable. Why not end the practice now, especially given the risks and considerable cost of administering this test during a pandemic? 

We have posted many critiques of New York City’s gifted program over the years on our NYC Public School Parents blog, including this one by esteemed education leader Debbie Meier in 2007, when Chancellor Joel Klein first instituted a standardized, high-stakes testing process for admissions to these classes in the supposed name of “equity.”

As Meier wrote, “They are using two instruments we know for a fact provide racially biased results–it’s the data that the canards about racial inferiority are based on and comes with a history of bias. Both class and race. Furthermore, we know that psychometricians have unanimously warned us for years about the lack of reliability of standardized tests for children under 7.”

The admissions outcome is clearly racially- and economically-biased, as nearly half of all students who take the test in the wealthiest part of Manhattan, District 2, score as “gifted” (meaning at 90th percentile) while very few score that high in the poorer neighborhoods of Brooklyn or the Bronx. Some parents pay up to $400 an hour for their four-year-old children to take test prep classes. 

About 29,000 children took the gifted test last year, and about 3,600 got offers for seats in gifted classes. Currently, according to the New York Post, Asian students account for 43% of these students, followed by white students at 36%, Hispanic students 8%, and Black students 6%.  

To show how ridiculous this test is, Haimson cites a study showing that most of the children who score at the top on the exam are not at the top a year later.

The only beneficiary of this test is Pearson, which turns a profit.

Peter Greene turns his attention to Rhode Island and finds that it has been subject to a corporate education reform takeover.
Not only is the governor a former venture capitalist who made her reputation by taking an axe to teachers’ pensions, but her husband Andy Moffitt is a TFA alum who moved on to McKinsey. Not only that, he co-authored a book with Michael Barber of Pearson about “Deliverology,” a philosophy that turns education into data analytics.

Governor Gina Raimondo hired a TFA alum to lead the State Education Department; the new Commissioner immediately joined Jen Bush’s far-rightwing Chiefs for Change and led a state takeover of Providence schools. There is no template for a successful state takeover, so we will see how that goes. Think Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, funded with $100 million from Duncan’s Race to the Top. Think Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, which closed after six of boasts but consistent failure.

Read Greene’s incisive review of the First Couple of Rhode Island and remember that Governor Gina Raimondo is a Democrat, though it’s hard to differentiate her views from those of Betsy DeVos.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, reports that the NYC Department of Education plans to award $6 million to testing giant Pearson, despite the pandemic and looming budget cuts.

She notes:

Of that six million dollars, $1.7 million is for a one -year extension of Pearson’s controversial assessment to test four-year-old children for their “giftedness” – a standardized exam which many experts say has little reliability or validity, and is highly correlated with race and class.

She reviews the long history of failure associated with Pearson tests.

Evidently, Pearson’s lobbyists are better that its tests.

https://www.educationdive.com/news/is-edtpa-standing-in-the-way-of-getting-more-teachers-into-classrooms/572969/

Educators disagree about the value, validity, and reliability of the Pearson EdTPA, which is mandated in many states as the gateway to entering teaching.

Some states have lowered the passing score. Some are wondering whether to abandon it.

The debate occurs at a time when enrollments in teacher education programs have dropped by a third.

While many agree on the importance of high standards for new teachers, it’s by no means clear that the EdTPA encourages better teaching or merely rewards teachers who are good at the demands made by Pearson.

Owen Davis writes here about the enrichment of the testing industry by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

The testing and accountability craze started before No Child Left Behind, but that federal law turned it into a bonanza for Pearson and other companies and led to a consolidation of the testing industry.

We now know, almost 20 years after NCLB was signed into law on January 8, 2002, that it has had very little effect on student test scores, on closing achievement gaps, or on any of the other wild promises made first by George W. Bush, echoed by Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, and reiterated again by Arne Duncan and John King.

Who in Congress or the federal government will have the courage to call a halt to this insane investment of billions of dollars into the testing industry?

Davis writes:

Three days after taking office, George W. Bush unveiled his signature domestic policy, No Child Left Behind. The bill would triple the number of exams the federal government required of students, while dangling stiff penalties over struggling schools. For many educators it felt like a depth charge.

The mood was different at Pearson Education, a division of the London-based conglomerate Pearson PLC. As the education community was still absorbing the shock in February 2001, Pearson Education chief executive Peter Jovanovich spoke to a group of Wall Street investment analysts. He pointed them to the proposed annual testing requirements and school report cards. “This,” Jovanovich said, “almost reads like our business plan.”

Pearson Education was a relative newcomer to the education market. Three years earlier, Pearson PLC had paid $4.6 billion to buy the textbook wing of publishing house Simon & Schuster. In 2000, the company acquired a leading standardized test provider. Now Pearson’s stars had aligned.

“Content has been king,” Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s top executive, said at the time. “But now we’ll have the ability to put content and applications together and that will really allow us to be king.” With a hand in both delivering curriculum and testing students over that curriculum, Pearson would capitalize on America’s newfound school accountability kick.

Pearson Education’s profits increased 175 percent in the decade following No Child Left Behind. The company, whose properties included Penguin Books and the Financial Times, soon derived most of its profits from American education. Test sales jumped fivefold between 2000 and 2006. “Our assessment businesses are in the sweet spot of education policy,” Scardino told investors in 2005 – a year when more than 60 percent of American school kids lived in states giving Pearson tests.

Since 2000, the testing market has roughly tripled in size, to nearly $4 billion a year, with annual achievement tests spawning a range of more frequent tracking assessments. As testing has flourished, more and more functions of the school publishing industry the have fallen into fewer and fewer hands. In 1988, ten publishers shared 70 percent of the textbook market. Today, the “Big Three” —McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the juggernaut Pearson—control at least 85 percent of the market. These lucky few have since expanded their offerings; Pearson hawks everything from student data trackers to online credit-recovery courses to ADHD diagnostic kits.

But along the way the American public grew wary of the companies’ influence in education. Parent groups on both the left and right have cast testing mandates as political favors to test makers, a notion that has helped spark a recent nationwide pushback against accountability policies. Hundreds of thousands of parents across the country have opted their children out of mandatory tests last year, and entire schools have held test boycotts.

The sense that students are over-tested is no illusion. A 2013 study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found the stakes attached to testing in the U.S. to be the highest in the developed world. One study of the 66 largest urban school districts found the average student took 112 standardized tests from kindergarten to graduation, spending an average 22 hours a year just taking the exams, let alone preparing for them.

The efforts of testing companies to secure and expand their business have helped pushed American schools toward an overbearing focus on assessment – one that has failed to achieve its desired result of dramatically improving student and school performance. Here’s the story of how we got to this point.

It is a sad story, an awful story, that involves lobbyists, business plans, and billions of dollars. Nothing good there for students or teachers.

Alan Singer writes her about the massive data breach at Pearson, which was covered up for nearly a year.

He writes:

“And you thought it was safe to sign into a test at Pearson Vue. Well you better think again. At least one Pearson online product was hacked exposing student data from 13,000 schools and one million college students. The hack occurred in November 2018, the F.B.I informed Pearson in March 2019, and Pearson, covering itself for as long as possible, finally went public with the disclosure in July 2019.

”The hacked product is Person’s aimsweb®, that is used to monitor student reading and math skills. Pearson’s assessment sub-division markets the product with claims that “its robust set of standards-aligned measures, aimswebPlus is proven to uncover learning gaps quickly, identify at-risk students, and assess individual and classroom growth.” A side benefit, especially useful for authoritarian regimes, is that aimsweb® also monitors student online “behavior.””

Parents who sued were offered a year of free credit monitoring. They said no thank you.

 

A Corporate Reform group in Tennessee released its own poll claiming that most voters in the state approve of annual testing.

The group called SCORE was created in 2009 by former Republican Senator Bill Frist to promote the Common Core State Standards. Being fast to accept CCSS before they were finished or even released put Tennessee in an advantageous spot for Race to the Top funding. The state won $500 million from Arne Duncan’s competition. $100 Million was set aside for the Achievement School District, which gathered the state’s lowest performing schools, located mostly in Memphis and Nashville, and handed them over to charter operators. The ASD promised to raise the state’s lowest-performing schools into the top 20%. The ASD was a complete failure. It did not raise any low-performing schools into the top 20%. Most made no progress at all.

Tennesse’s SCORE is a member of the rightwing network called PIE (Policy Innovators in Education), created by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to connect groups that were disrupting and privatizing public education. Like other members of PIE, SCORE favors charter schools.

The board of SCORE is loaded with millionaires and billionaires who should be supporting the state’s public schools, which enroll nearly 90% of the state’s children, but prefer to disrupt and privatize them.

Five years ago, a public school parent blogger called out SCORE for making money off Common Core products. Open this link to see some eye-popping financial transactions, where RTTT money goes into the coffers of corporations owned by board members, who in turn make campaign contributions to Republican Governor BillHaslam. (Former Governor Haslam is now on the board of Teach for America.) The Gates Foundation helped to fund SCORE.

In addition to the oligarchs identified in the preceding post, the SCORE boards includes these super-wealthy Tennesseans:

Pitt Hyde of the Memphis Hyde Family Foundation. Owns AutoZone and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Hyde Family Foundation is the largest funder of the Tennessee Charter School Center.
 
Janet Ayers of the Ayers Foundation, also a funder of Common Core. 
 
Dee Haslam, married to the former governor’s brother. They own Pilot gas stations and the Cleveland Browns. Worth $1.8 billion, according to Wikipedia.
 
Orrin Ingram of the local billionaire family that has pushed charter schools.

Apparently the only plan that SCORE has for Tennessee’s public school students is to inflict Common Core and standardized testing.

SCORE has lots of money, but no imagination and no sense of the public good.

It is committed to charter schools, privatization, and accountability (but only for public schools).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennessee has had endless problems with its state tests. They are called TNReady, but they are NeverReady.

The state just chose Pearson to manage its testing program, despite Pearson’s long history of problem-plagued tests. 

The British publishing house has been dropped by other states, but Tennessee is placing its bet on Pearson.

New York dropped Pearson after the #pineapplegate affair. See here and here.

Pearson’s PARCC Test encouraged 200,000 students to opt out of state testing in New York.

Texas dropped Pearson, perhaps when it realized that $500 million a year was excessive.

Good luck, Tennessee!

On the other hand, why not try a radical experiment and trust teachers to judge the progress of their students? They know what they taught and they know their students. Think of the savings!

Pearson has plans for the future. Its plans involve students, education, and profits. Pearson, of course, is the British mega-publishing corporation that has an all-encompassing vision of monetizing every aspect of education.

Two researchers, Sam Sellar and Anna Hogan, have reviewed Pearson’s plans. It is a frightening portrait of corporate privatization of teaching and of student data, all in service of private profit.

Pearson 2025: Transforming teaching and privatising education data, by Sam Sellar and Anna Hogan, discusses the potentially damaging effects of the company’s strategy for public education globally. It raises two main issues of concern in relation to the integrity and sustainability of schooling:

  1. the privatization of data infrastructure and data, which encloses innovation and new knowledge about how we learn, turning public goods into private assets; and
  2. the transformation and potential reduction of the teaching profession, diminishing the broader purposes and outcomes of public schooling.

You can also find a radio program featuring one of the researchers which discusses these issues at http://www.radiolabour.net/hogan-140519.html

 

Well, here is a nice development for those of us who object to depersonalized learning. The data analytics firm called Knewton is going out of business. Knewton was acquired by Pearson and was supposed to be the ultimate refinement of data mining.

Peter Greene describes the rise and fall of Knewton here.

The founder and CEO of Knewton was Jose Ferreira, who believed he was bringing Big Data into the classroom. He claimed in a video that with his techniques, his company knew more about students than their parents did. Here is an article from 2013 in which his vision is portrayed as the wave of the future, one of those inevitable phenomena that would envelop us whether we liked it or not.

Here he is, extolling the virtues of data mining. 

Knewton sounded too much like Brave New World to me, and I resented the fact that investors were creating a technology to spy on our children.

Peter Greene writes:

Adaptive learning. Computer-enhanced psychometrics. Personalized learning via computer. Knewton was going to do it all. Now it’s being sold for parts.

Knewton started in 2008, launched by Jose Ferreira. By 2012, Ferreira led the ed tech pack in overpromising that sounded both improbable and creepy. In a Forbes interview piece, Ferreira described Knewton as “what could become the world’s most valuable repository of the ways people learn.” Knewton could make this claim because it “builds its software into online classes that watch students’ every move: scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs.”

Developments like this offer hope that other massive invasions of privacy, which are inherently dehumanizing, will fail. I’m on the side of flawed and fallible human beings. Teachers and parents, not machines.