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An excerpt from:
“The skills that are easiest to teach and test are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate and outsource.”
In response to one of my recent posts on Common Core and high-stakes assessments, I received an email asking, “Why are Pearson tests so bad?”
The short answer to this question is actually provided by the now defunct Pearson Foundation on their “Five Things I’ve Learned” website. Pearson Foundation claimed to present “great examples of the best in education” from “education leaders devoted to improving the fortunes of others through learning.” One “leader” highlighted is Andreas Schleicher, a data collection specialist with the OECD, the organization that develops the international PISA tests in collaboration with Pearson. The tests are used to compare performance by students from different counties and justify calls for increased high-stakes testing in the United States.
In the posted interview, either Schleicher or Pearson let the cat out of the bag. According to Schleicher, “The skills that are easiest to teach and test are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate and outsource.”
Educational decisions should not be about what is best for students, what is most important to know, or what promotes active citizenship in democratic societies. Decisions are made based on what is easiest to test, digitize, and outsource. Schleicher does not say it outright, but the implication for a company like Pearson is clear. Educational decisions should be based on what is most profitable – for them!
The longer answer is the way Pearson and its testing buddies, groups like Stanford University’s SCALE, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), New York State Education, and the federal Education Department, try to ignore or silence critics who have the audacity to raise questions about the validity of their testing programs. They make inflated claims for the value of their products, diligently buy-off supporters in academia and the press, and the rest of us are supposed to remain quiet. Anyone who wants to participate in the design of better tests is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure that they cannot participate in open discussion about what they are selling.
Pearson is now under federal investigation for inappropriate contact with Los Angeles school officials prior to being awarded a lucrative contract. Its now defunct not-for-profit foundation agreed to pay a $7.7 million fine in New York State for providing perks to school officials, including free trips to “conferences” where Pearson promoted its products.
Pearson’s influence is also spread in other ways. It is a major exhibitor at national educational conferences sponsored by American Educational Research Association, ASCD, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council for the Social Studies, helping to fund the conferences and distributing swag to participants. Pearson also provides workshops and speakers for these conferences, advertises in their publications, and invites prestigious and influential speakers to participate in Pearson-sponsored events.
To read the article in full, go to the Huffington Post.