Parents, Students, Teachers…Meet Pearson Publishing

For me, the Blue Hat Movement was motivated by three things:

  1. I love teaching and learning
  2. My daughter was seeing clearly that her teachers were not free to actually teach and thus she was deeply unsatisfied with the way “learning” was being rolled out in her public school.
  3. When I heard about the story behind Pearson Publishing.

I first met Jennifer Job at a family dinner.  My parents are friends with her parents and we had this great conversation.  I mentioned that I used to homeschool my kids (that reads as “unschooling”) and she asked how my kids were enjoying public school since leaving homeschooling.  Next thing I know Jen starts telling me that she does some kind of curriculum research and as it turned out she had quite a story to tell.  And to be honest, she sounded a bit crazy.  But it is crazy the way all diabolical truths can sound crazy.  It is so hard for us to accept that fellow human beings are willing to manipulate and hamper the happiness of their fellows that when we hear the truth of it, it is just soooo much easier to pretend we never heard it.

After I talked to Jennifer, I talked to Zoe, my daughter.  We planned on doing something about it.  We began to look up articles about what was happening around the country.  We discovered, to our surprise, just how many people were waking up to how unhappy the current paradigm has made us.  We were going to do something about it soon.  Zoe and I picked a date for an action to take place and we made a website.  But life got busy and it sort of fell away.  Then Zoe decided that it was time to take action in some form…next thing I know she is being told that she is no longer allowed on campus because she refused to take a standardized test.  Then all the rest happened and it sparked off the Blue Hat Movement into fully forming.

People are upset with “education” for many reasons.  Some want to opt out of testing because they just feel it is wrong or too  much pressure.  Some people feel that the Common Core is okay, but we just need to change the testing portion of it.  And others, who have dug deeper into the mystery have come to some really hard to believe truths about what is running this whole show.  And I resist posting this on my site because I want to remain credible.  Because it sounds, quite frankly, absurd.  Who on Earth would look at education in America and see our children with dollar bill signs in their eyes?  Why would someone with any conscience think it is okay to degrade the art of teaching in exchange for profit, while derailing the love of learning for an entire generation?  Sounds like science fiction doesn’t it?

What many people may not be able to acknowledge, is that what is happening to learning in our countries schools has everything to do with the corporatization of education.  Turning our youth, into sure fired profit for companies.  It’s happening so insidiously as to be beyond belief.  But it is right there, in plain sight.  It is right here in front of us.  The educational policy makers for America schools are in bed with companies who do not care one whit about how prepared our children are for the future.  What they care about is how to turn the expectation of 12 years of “learning” into a guaranteed revenue stream.  The end result for teachers is a fixed curriculum that anyone can teach, to simplify “teaching”.  Think of this as a controlled or fixed cost.  To a company, a fixed cost with a predictable outcome is a boon.  All they need to have in the classroom are students who are legally required and forced to participate as consumers.  Every test our kid’s take means profit for the company.  In this fashion, the beloved teacher  is unwittingly placed into the position as spokesperson that derives profit for the test taking and evaluation company.

Imagine convincing an entire nation’s schools that they must use your service as a provider for school accreditation, teaching licensure, student testing, curriculum.  A literal goldmine.  And when the public schools are proven to fail by the standards you have purposefully set, then you can close them and fill the void with charter schools which accept vouchers.   You’d have plenty of “teachers” to hire, seeing as how you closed all the real schools.  Still reading?  Congratulations…you have just been introduced to Pearson Publishing and this is their business model.

This may start off as a fight to end high stakes testing.  But if we are to stop what is behind many sweeping and upcoming “reforms” we must become aware that this is a fight to preserve “public” education.  Education cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of private corporations…oops…I must correct myself there and change the tense…education must be taken back from the hands of private corporations.

We have, in terms of sheer numbers, the power…but only for as long as public education remains indeed public.  If we do nothing…if everyone keeps teaching to the test and if kids keep taking the tests…education as we know it, will be a thing of the past.  Standardization is simply a concept we have come to accept as good.  When in fact, no child must be standardized in order to be a brilliant, creative and empowered member of our society.  In fact, the less standardized they are…the more guaranteed they are to be someone who will contribute even more to the rich diversity of American and global ingenuity.  And you know, with the state of the world right now, we not people who will question what will work and what will not work.  More people who just do as they are told is a prescription for more of the same that has the world in the state it is in.

I encourage you to please do some homework on Pearson Publishing.  Find out who they really are and what they are really up to.  In the beginning you may be branded a nutjob for speaking about it out loud.  But as more people are able to see what it is happening, we can hopefully put education back into the hands of passionate teaching professionals who truly want children to excel, grow and achieve.  The classrooms must be set free and clear from corporations.

Below is an excellent article by Jen, who is a phD candidate on the topic of curriculum reform.

The Pearson Monopoly Jennifer Job, UNC Chapel Hill

If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of the publishers they own, like Adobe, Scott Foresman, Penguin, Longman, Wharton, Harcourt, Puffin, Prentice Hall, or Allyn & Bacon (among others).  If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of their tests, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Millar Analogy Test, or the G.E.D. Or their data systems, like PowerSchool and SASI. [1]

 In a little over a decade, Pearson has practically taken over education as we know it.  Currently, it is the largest educational assessment company in the U.S. Twenty-five states use them as their only source of large-scale testing, and they give and mark over a billion multiple choice
tests every year.[2]  They are one of the largest suppliers of textbooks, especially as they look to acquire Random House this year.  Their British imprint EdExcel is the largest examination board in the UK to be held in non-government hands.[3]

Pearson has realized that education is big business. Last year, they did 2.6 billion pounds of business, with a profit of 500 million pounds (close to a billion dollars).[4]  And business is looking up, which I will return to in a minute.  First, I want to talk about the vicious cycle that Pearson drives through education.  

Pearson’s first big jump was acquiring Harcourt’s testing arm in 2008, taking Harcourt’s 40% market share and parlaying it into controlling more than half of all assessments taking place that year.[5]  At this point, Pearson began to coordinate all of the textbook imprints it owns (as one of the three biggest textbook publishers in the U.S.) with its tests, completing its own equation of
curriculum and assessment.  It was just a matter of locking down their territory and growing it. 

To grow into the multibillion-dollar corporation they are today, Pearson blurs every line among for profit, nonprofit, and government systems.  They have prominently partnered with University of Phoenix, whose parent company’s CEO also sits on the board of Teach for America.  They acquired
America’s Choice, which partners with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations.  The Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is Sir Michael Barber, a lobbyist who pushes for free-market
reforms to education.  And the list of executives and partnerships goes on.[6]

What are some of the benefits of these partnerships? Pearson’s advocates for education reform were instrumental in the development of the Race to the Top initiative, from which they have benefitted
in numerous ways.  For example, Race to the Top requires significant data accumulation, and thus Pearson partnered with the Gates Foundation to be the ones to store the data.[7]  Pearson also is a key partner of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers.  When the plan for the Common Core Standards was hatched, Pearson paid to fly the policymakers to Singapore for luxurious “education” trips to promote the educational methods they promote. [8]

As a result of their work with the NGA, the Common Core Standards and Race to the Top assessment requirements for those standards work heavily in Pearson’s favor.  It doesn’t matter that Stephen
Krashen found that 53% of educators oppose the Common Core—nearly every state has adopted it anyway, and they encourage a 20-fold increase in the number of tests given every age from preschool to grade 12. [9] Tests that will be administered by Pearson.

And despite the emphasis of Race To the Top and Common Core on state-led education initiatives,
in reality, Pearson does not produce different texts and tests for different states.  As Texas is one of its oldest and largest customers, and many of the states that are adopting Pearson materials are “red states,” they make sure that the materials they provide will pass muster with those particular school boards.  Then they recycle the same material for other states.[10] This tilts curriculum in obviously ways, with US History coverage leaning decidedly right wing, but also in less obvious ways.  Light was shed on these changes with a recent Pearson reading comprehension test administered to eighth graders.  This was the first such test for several states that had recently adopted Pearson’s materials, including New York, which was previously known for its rigorous reading comprehension topic.  This year, the passage was a story called “The Pineapple and the Hare,” which was an adaptation of another story that went so awry the original author disavowed the new version.  Students complained that the story was childish and that it was confusing what the test makers were trying to convey
by using it.  Parents in other states lodged the same complaints.  But New York state doesn’t seem to care—not only will Pearson continue to provide a large portion of New York’s tests, but they are contracted to run New York’s teacher licensure process beginning in 2014.[11]

How Pearson got into New York’s teacher licensure program can probably be attributed to another one of its higher-powered partners—Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College.  Not only is Fuhrman the head of one of the most prestigious teacher education schools in America, but she now
holds the title of “Non-Executive Independent Director ofPearson PLC” and has received almost one million dollars in stock and fees to date.[12]  So it is really not surprising that Pearson has its foot in the door to make decisions about who will hold NY Teaching Licenses.

Stanford was responsible for designing the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), but they did so with, quote, considerable seed money from Pearson from the beginning of the project.  The edTPA
relies on evaluation of two ten-minute videos of the candidate’s teaching and the responses to a written examination. Supposedly, the scorers are retired teachers who receive $75 per evaluation (although, many of us applied to Pearson to be scorers, and not one person from UNC was chosen to my knowledge). And to prove validity of the edTPA, the Education Development Center, a non-profit in Waltham, Mass, performed a field test across five states.  The Education Development Center is funded by Pearson.[13] 

The insidiousness of Pearson’s tentacles’ reaching across education would be enough to set off alarms in the community.  Huge corporations and conglomerates own stock in Pearson, including the Libyan
Investment Authority, owned by Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, who owns 3% of the company.  The Koch brothers have connection to Pearson, as does Teach For America.  And the more Pearson acts, the fewer choices we have over education in our towns and cities. Pearson just bought a large online charter school consortium that opened across America, and they now own the G.E.D. for students who drop out altogether.[14]  And when a company called Boundless Learning tried to offer free and alternative textbooks to create a choice for students, Pearson partnered with Cengage and MacMillan to not only sue the company out of existence, but also the venture capitalists that funded it.[15]

States are beginning to rely on Pearson not only for materials, but also for the actual data that drives them to make crucial decisions in student learning and teacher retention.  There is an assumed validity to these materials that is never proven and now, never challenged.  Ironically, the free-market argument has paved the way for a system with no competition.  Scores from Pearson tests are used in value-added measurements.  Scores from the edTPA are used in hiring and firing decisions.[16]  As Rob Lytle, an education consultant, said,“If new standards are as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad…they’ll want help, quick.  And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software, and student assessments will be right there
to provide it.”[17] It is no longer a piece of the puzzle we can afford to ignore.


[2] Ibid.

[3] www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/usa-education-investment-idUSL2E8J15FR20120802

[4] www.pearson.com

[5]www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/schools/testing/companies.html

[6] www.unitedoptout.com/boycott-pearson-now

[7] dianeravitch.net/2012/05/07/the-united-states-of-pearson-2/

[8] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/hacking-away-at-the-pears_b_1464134.html

[9] blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/04/Stephen_krashen_testing_and_te.html

[10] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/pearson-education-new-york-testing-_b_1850169.html

[11] www.schoolbook.org/2012/05/04/pearson-says-its-tests-are-valid-and-reliable

[12] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/pearson-education-new-york-testing-_b_1850169.html

[13] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/hacking-away-at-the-pears_b_1464134.html

[14] Ibid.

[15]www.osnews.com/story/25774/Major_textbook_publishers_sue_open-education_texbook_start-up

[16] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/hacking-away-at-the-pears_b_1464134.html

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8 thoughts on “Parents, Students, Teachers…Meet Pearson Publishing

  1. I thought common core was a communist one-size-fits-all school to jobs placement program. There seems to be quite a bit of rhetorical bias in the article well beyond rightfully condemning Pearson The left/right, an inferred 2-Party paradigm is just an illusion. Crony-capitalism is at the heart of the core. The comingling of public taxpayer dollars with private enterprise AKA public/private partnerships distorts the true nature of the free market . (keep an eye out for that PPP term. It is code laced throughout today’s Board of Ed, Planning and Zoning Commissions, County Commissions and Town Councils–this is all tied together)
    The use of the term ‘free market’ mentioned is a complete misinterpretation of the reality. I recommend everyone read Bastiat’s ‘The Law’ to get a full grasp of man’s relationship with its governance and the free market.
    Our US Constitution is what gave us the defense mechanism so we could best maintain our individualism, given every opportunity to succeed or fail with our right to life liberty and property if we maintained our republican (small ‘r’) form of government. This is absolutely not to be confused by a letter after anyone’s name.
    We’re coming into the 3rd generation of ‘gubmint edumacated’ children and the success of the takeover with the formation of the US Dept of Ed is reflected in the article.
    Also, the Koch brothers were mentioned. They are heavy backers of ALEC which also gets a bad rap. But at this point it is they, along with ‘Closing the Door to Innovation’ who has created draft exit strategy legislation to be sponsored at the Federal level. Late July it is scheduled to be voted on by ALEC’s board. We will have to keep a close eye on this. With the approval it will be heading to Congress looking for sponsors.
    Bottom line—We don’t have a ‘blue state’ or a ‘red state’ problem. We have a red, white and blue American crisis.
    I cite this small passage to emphasize my concern–
    “And despite the emphasis of Race To the Top and Common Core on state-led education initiatives, in reality, Pearson does not produce different texts and tests for different states. As Texas is one of its oldest and largest customers, and many of the states that are adopting Pearson materials are “red states,” they make sure that the materials they provide will pass muster with those particular school boards. Then they recycle the same material for other states.[10] This tilts curriculum in obviously ways, with US History coverage leaning decidedly right wing, but also in less obvious ways.”

  2. How does this only have three comments?! This is a huge deal and needs to be shared! My husband (a new teacher) has been talking about the Pearson group monopoly for a while, people really need to see what’s happening to our education system.

  3. Excellent article. Think back a few years–remember how teachers were being demonized? We were lazy, overpaid, we just didn’t want to be evaluated? Once teachers critiques of the new curriculum were discredited, out rolled the Common Core and all its testing, to ‘fix’ our education system. Then, as you pointed out, we have the perfect set up for private corporations to make money from our children. What terrifies me is that there is an even larger agenda. Common Core ELA standards actually discourage students from voicing, writing about, or thinking of their own opinions–the only important thing is, “What does the author say?” If a student voices their own opinion, we’re told to redirect them by asking, “Can you support this from this text?”–if not, it’s not valid. I was actually told in a Common Core training, “Students shouldn’t be thinking their own thoughts about the text”! This isn’t just about profit right now, this is about creating a brainwashed populace in the future. Please keep speaking out.

    • Thank you for the comment! It was, of course, completely true. I have also seen many questions about just picking a quote from an article and then using other quotes from the same article to back it up. This usually requires little to no thought, and we aren’t even writing anything of our own! Although, now that makes more sense. I used to think that the question writers were just tired when we got that type, but no, they are actually trying to keep us from having our own thoughts. Jeez.

  4. Thank you for the reference to Jennifer Job’s research.
    Many commenters are joining Diane Ravitch’s blog about this subject. The greater the number who join together, the more power there will be stop the corporate takeover of education.
    I wrote to the Dept. of Justice, as a citizen, to ask about anti-trust law enforcement and textbook publishing.

  5. Pingback: Common Core – So What Can We Do? | Happy Warrior

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