Pearson leads the education industry, but that isn’t good
Nick “Chico” Hernandez
Nothing in this country is safe from monopolization and corporate greed, and the education industry is no exception. All over social media, students of every age are voicing their dislike for today’s education industry, and the rising obsession with standardized testing.
Walk into a school book store, and all over the shelves will be Pearson published books. Attend any number of classes, and it might use Pearson’s MyLab (MyMathLab, MyITLab, MyHistoryLab, etc.) website. Talk to a teacher, and many of them are certified by Pearson. Take an ADHD test, and Pearson probably made it. In addition, high school drop outs can take a GED test made by Pearson.
Pearson sits at the top of the American education industry, with bad publicity littering the ground below them.
According to prwatch.org (a watchdog site), “Apart from $8 million spent lobbying from 2009 to 2014, Pearson also underwrote untold sums on luxury trips for school officials. A crackdown by the New York attorney general led to a $7.7 million settlement in 2013, and the shuttering of the ‘charitable’ organization used for the scheme”.
With the lobbying from Pearson and other big name education corporations (ETS, Houghton Mifflin, McGraw-Hill) the “expanded testing has fueled a testing boom worth nearly $2 billion annually, giving the main corporations getting the testing contracts a huge return on investment for their lobbying” as stated in a report by prwatch.org. Lobbying is no new tactic for big corporations trying to get their way when it comes to Congress, the Senate, or any other high-ranking area of government. Keep in mind this is an education corporation.
On November 29, 2012 Pearson was trying to hire people to score the tests (tests that Pearson writes and administers as well) through many means, including Craigslist. The ad offered $12 and said “Bachelor degree required – any field welcome.” This was brought to light by a coalition of people in Texas that wanted to reform standardized testing in the state.
Jennifer White is an elementary school teacher with 15+ years of experience and she, curious about Pearson and PARCC exam, applied to Pearson as a test grader for the 2015 4th grade English Language Arts exam.
In an article White wrote for the Washington Post, “Pearson’s offer of employment came to me even though I never actually spoke to anybody at the company. The offer is conditional upon verification of my college degree, completed project training and signature on a confidentiality waiver. The company, valued at well over $10 billion, did not verify my information before its offer of employment, and seems interested only in verifying my college degree.”
White went on to mention that besides her 15+ year’s experience in teaching, she has “multiple advanced degrees in education”, and that Pearson was only interested in verifying her college degree. “I very well could have invented my resume,” she added. Pearson did not call her, they did not schedule an interview, they didn’t ask for references, and they couldn’t have performed a background check since White never gave Pearson her Social Security number.
Dan DiMaggio, a former test scorer for Pearson, wrote this in on monthlyreview.org, “Scorers often emerge from training more confused than when they started. Usually, within a day or two, when the scores we are giving are inevitably too low (as we attempt to follow the standards laid out in training), we are told to start giving higher scores, or, in the enigmatic language of scoring directors, to ‘learn to see more papers as a 4.’ For some mysterious reason, unbeknownst to test scorers, the scores we are giving are supposed to closely match those given in previous years. So if 40 percent of papers received 3s the previous year (on a scale of 1 to 6), then a similar percentage should receive 3s this year”.
Holding an untold number of children’s futures in your hand is as easy as having a college degree in anything. Shady company tactics are nothing new in America, but even the education industry isn’t safe anymore.
Pearson has also been involved in using Tracx — a website that calls themselves, “the first true social media management system” — to spy on students via social media, particularly Twitter. This has prompted a hashtag #PearsonIsWatching over social media. This all started with a teenager in New Jersey whom posted a tweet that, according to USA Today, “Referenced a question on the PARCC exam, one of two Common Core-aligned tests some states are using.”
Bob Braun is an anti-PARCC education blogger who got ahold of an email a New Jersey superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett, sent about the issue of Pearson monitoring students on the internet and explaining how her testing coordinator received a late call from the state education department.
According to Braun on his website, bobbraunsledger.com, “The unnamed state education department employee contended a student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it. That was not true. It turned out the student had posted–at 3:18 pm, well after testing was over–a tweet about one of the items with no picture. Jewett does not say the student revealed a question. There is no evidence of any attempt at cheating.”
Pearson has made it clear that they are “Absolutely not” spying and that “Only when it is confirmed that a test question has been exposed or compromised does Pearson work with states to address the breach.”
Pearson wants to expand K-12 testing, but have fought against legislation that is made to protect student privacy from commercial data mining including, but not limited to, not signing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
The position that Pearson has risen itself to is akin to Time Warner Cable, meaning they have a hold on their industry. 54% of their business comes from America. With the urge for more kids to attend school, and attend higher education schools, it looks like Pearson will continue to profit no matter what they do. Forget the oil companies, forget big pharma; Pearson holds a market you have no choice but to pay for.