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On the Rise of Pearson (Oh, and Following the Money)


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 ‘Education’ — Who Are These People?


According to a recent article on Reuters, an international news service based in Great Britain, “investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education. The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.”

Starting in May 2014, Pearson Education will take over teacher certification in New York State as a way of fulfilling the state’s promised “reforms” in its application for federal Race to the Top money. The evaluation system known as the Teacher Performance assessment or TPA was developed at Stanford University with support from Pearson, but it will be solely administered and prospective teachers will be entirely evaluated by Pearson and its agents. Pearson is adverting for current or retired licensed teachers or administrators willing to evaluate applicants for teacher certification. It is prepared to pay $75 per assessment.

The Pearson footprint appears to be everywhere and taints academic research as well as government policy. For example, the Education Development Center (EDC), based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is a “global nonprofit organization that designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic opportunity.” EDC works with “public-sector and private partners” to “harness the power of people and systems to improve education, health promotion and care, workforce preparation, communications technologies, and civic engagement.” In education, it is involved in curriculum and materials development, research and evaluation, publication and distribution, online learning, professional development, and public policy development. According to its website, its funders include Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel, the Gates Foundation, and of course, Pearson Education, all companies or groups that stand to benefit from its policy recommendations.